Responsible Bath Salt Users, short story by Richard Prime at Spillwords.com

Responsible Bath Salt Users

Responsible Bath Salt Users

written by: Richard Prime

 

Hello. My name is Paul Hanna and I’m a ghost hunter.

If you have seen a ghost, be it at home, at work, the local church or maybe at a social gathering, either that or you fear your house is haunted or that you are being haunted by something paranormal, extra-terrestrial, demonic or, indeed, meta-physical, I shall introduce you to the ghost and prove that it is not a ghost at all. There is nothing to be scared of. Ghosts do not exist. The dead cannot hurt us, only the living can do that.

The above is an extract from my advert on social media. More so, it is a challenge. Some people are desperate to believe in ghosts and enjoy being scared and, of course, there is the hope that death is not the end and life continues on a higher plane of existence. The advert includes my phone number and the url of my website where I prime and chill prospective clients. When they call, I give my rates which are elaborate. There is a list of reviews by previous clients telling how frightened they were and speaking of how professional I am. None of the reviews are genuine. I am a fake, a fraud and a charlatan, but I make a generous living.

I have never experienced anything that would convince me that ghosts exist, but they are easy to conjure. Ghost hunts are always performed in the dark. Not only does that heighten tension, but I can easily get away with all manner of ghostly tricks, and the results are terrified clients, howling, screaming, hugging each other and crying, and paying me for my services.

There was one time, however, when I thought I might have seen something weird, strange, paranormal, and potentially scary. I was walking along a darkened street in York at about three am. I’d been to a party that night and had one too many drinks and had eaten too much food. I couldn’t settle in my bed and, instead, took a walk, hoping that night air would help me sleep. I turned a corner onto a hill leading down to the country pub where I was staying, and before me, about 20 metres distant, stood a huge, cowled monk. I continued walking towards it, confident that it was an illusion; I’d been drinking, my eyes were tired, on one side of the road I was following stood a church and graveyard, a breeze was blowing limbs of trees, casting deformed shadows across the walls of the church. On the left of the road stood a row of stone cottages. Sufficiently primed, I entertained a moment of doubt, and thought to myself, if that thing moves I will run away, but it didn’t move, and the more I walked and the closer I was to the figure, it became apparent that it wasn’t a monk at all, but a pattern of darker stones in the wall of a cottage. I arrived at my room at the country pub where I slept the sleep of the innocent, confident that, once again, I’d been proven correct, and that ghosts do not exist.

Ghosts are merely a device employed by philistines to part fools from their money. Guildhall Mediums with their Ouija boards and group readings are ridiculous. I attended a group sitting once and was shocked at how easily the reader dry polled their audience of grieving, desperate-to-believe sitters.

“A man has come forward named David.”

Silence from the audience.

“The connection’s very weak. Sorry. His name’s Peter.” Silence. “Chris… Carl… Clive.”

A hand goes up.

“Clive is your father, sir.”

A voice calls, “Uncle.”

“As I said, the connection’s weak. Clive is your uncle, sir, and he’s wearing his favourite dinner jacket.”

Murmurs of dissent.

“Raincoat… Parka… Pullover… Cagoul.”

Muttering from audience.

“Sir, your uncle Clive has a message for you. He says, Don’t worry about me, I’m all right.”

At the end of the reading, those who had made “contact,” filled a comment card and left a donation. That’s as well as having paid an entrance fee to the reading. Cross my palm with silver and I’ll tell you what you want to hear. I noticed with interest when I left, the “medium” drove a Bentley.

Another time, I sat-in at a seance. The group listened to relaxing music for a time, preparing the ambiance, then placed one finger on a pointer that seemed to nestle above the board which contained the words Yes and No and an array of letters. The seance was held at a house that, allegedly, had once been occupied by King Richard I (the Lionheart), and the group were hoping to contact his spirit.

The “medium” leading the seance asked, “Are you Richard the first?”

The pointer swept across the board to the word Yes.

“Do you have a message for us?”

The pointer drifted around the board, indicating a series of letters and spelling out the words, “Do not worry about me I am…

That’s when I lost interest. For a start, King Richard I was an Angevin King and didn’t speak a word of English. They must have night classes in EFL on the other side. I was disappointed at having paid £50 to attend. Cross my palm with silver and I’ll tell you what you want to hear.

One group of former clients had asked me to prove their haunting so they could invite visitors. The word HELP etched on the walls of their lounge was a nice touch. That wasn’t my doing. The home-owners, my clients, had done that. It was beneficial they mentioned my name in their letters to the press and, soon enough, coach loads of tourists descended on the home, hoping to see the ghost, buy the t-shirt and mug and the book that had been written about the haunting. There was even talk of a film being made of it. Clearly, I’m not the only fraud.

I was in my home-cum-office. A bedroom converted to make-shift office; desk, laptop, shelves of books and files, telephone, and other office paraphernalia. I was busying myself leafing through and collating contracts, receipts, and bank statements for my accountant when there was a sudden thump on the desk as Spook, my black maine coon, determined to scatter paper receipts and stationary onto the floor, leapt onto the desk.

“How did you get in here?” I enquired, irritably, certain that i had closed the door firmly but that was wide open. I collected Spook in my arms and stroked her affectionately, carrying the cat to the kitchen where I fed her and scattered toys to keep her entertained. Then I returned to the office, closing the door firmly and tugging it once or twice to ensure it didn’t open.

Picking paper and pens from the floor, I continued recording my expenses. Sometime later, I felt a sudden gust of air, and something brushed by my legs. Spook again. The door, once again, was open. Cats are known to leap up at door handles and open doors, but not the ball handle type that I had to physically twist in order to open the door.

I must be more tired than I thought, I realised. Having packed away papers, I crept into bed. Spook leapt on the duvet beside me, inching closer and taking up available space each time I moved. I slept.

It was in the early hours that I was woken by the duvet being lifted, Spook leaping from the bed and landing with a thump on the floor. I felt a warm, naked body slip into bed beside me and arms embrace me. It was Milly, my partner. There had been a parent/teacher event at the school where she taught Mathematics. Milly spooned against me and I felt her kisses on my shoulder as I drifted back into sleep.

I was woken by sunlight at 6am. Milly had gone. A bit early, I thought, but it was possible she had some prep to do before classes began, and I thought nothing more of it.

I had been contacted two days previously by a local group, calling themselves “Responsible Bath Salt Users.” Mr. and Mrs. Tinsy lived in a fourteenth-century grade two listed building and complained of footsteps and disembodied voices from an unused room in their home. I spent some minutes researching bath salts:

Bath salts contain manmade chemicals that increase brain and central nervous system activity in much the same way as drugs like amphetamines or MDMA (Ecstasy).

Bath salts can cause users to have an out-of-body experience, elated mood, or feel delirious. These effects can last up to 3–4 hours.

Other short-term effects include:

agitation and irritability
insomnia
dizziness
panic attacks
depression
suicidal thoughts
paranoia delusions and hallucinations
distorted sense of reality
decreased ability to think clearly
mood disturbances and psychosis

What do they need a ghost hunter for, I wondered. They must see them every day. Mrs. Tinsy specifically asked that I lure the ghost from their home. Can a ghost be lured? Here ghosty ghosty! No doubt this would be the easiest money I had ever made. I was looking forward to reading the book about the ghost hunt. Maybe even buy a T-shirt and mug. Mr. Hanna kindly led us to our ghost and we saw aaaah a white aaaaah spectral ahhh frightening thing.

Milly didn’t come home that night. She’s a busy lady, I thought. It’s clearly something college related. I’m a busy man, and I had work to do.

I arrived at the Tinsy home after dark and was led immediately to the haunted bedroom. Mr. and Mrs. Tinsy and I were armed with candles. Ghosts do not like natural or fluorescent light. Some people will believe anything. Candles flicker eery shadows on walls, perfect for the primed participant. The room’s only contents were an iron bed frame and an abandoned wardrobe. I stood by the wardrobe.

“This is the focus of the haunting,” I explained. There was a flicker of candlelight and shadow as the Tinsies shuffled uneasily.

“I’m going to open the wardrobe,” I began. “You might see the ghost as it flees.”

I snatched open the wardrobe door. There was a jingle jangle of empty coathangers. There was also a thump of feet as Mr. Tinsy staggered. Mrs. Tinsy screamed, buried her face into her husband’s chest, and began to cry.

“Did you see it?” I asked.

“Yes – yes,” the tinsies chorused.

“Your home has been cleansed.”

Easy money.

There was no ghost, of course, but the responsible bath salt users would see it, nonetheless.

Milly didn’t come home that night. Concerned, I telephoned her parents the next morning.

“Oh, Paul,” her mother began softly, “I have been trying to contact you for two days.”

Spook was at my feet, staring at me accusingly.

“Mildred is dead!” her mother continued.

Confused, I replied, “She’s not dead! Milly was here two nights ago.”

“Two nights?” her mother was crying. “Paul! Mildred died in a car accident two days ago. Where have you been?”

The words stumbled out, “I’ve been working.”

Angrily, her mother snapped, “You’re always working!” and the line died.

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