Aphelion Issue 266, Volume 25
October 2021
Long Fiction and Serials
Short Stories
Flash Fiction
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A Shiftless Spirit

by Lori R. Lopez

The rattle of a sash, its bolt in place,
from a phantom breath without a face
that jars the panes and slips within
beneath the sill, extremely thin…
The ghost proceeds to hunt and spy,
its purpose veiled from any eye,
        until a din betrays the specter —
who activated my Smoke Detector.

The beeping drags me out of a dream
        to stumble through a fabric seam
wherein the stuffing, my mortal coil,
unravels then snarls to a mess of turmoil
that sticks out like a Teddybear’s fluff.
Which leads me to proclaim “Enough!”
Possessions fly to land in a heap
as the presence assembles into a creep.

Disgruntled, I bash the alarm with a shoe
to kill the shrillness. What else can I do?
I lack an emergency plan for ghoulies,
bumps in the night, tricksters and droolies.
        I have no precautions for apparitions.
There is never a good time for superstitions,
and I’m in no mood for a rude Poltergeist,
especially one in the midst of a heist.

“Explain yourself!” I demand of the vandal,
and fumble to light the wick of a candle.
        The matchstick dies in a rancid breeze,
a gust of contempt like a whiff of disease.
So I dash for a switch on the opposite wall.
The spook beats me to it by casting a pall,
yet I persevere and reach for the light —
my gaze dumbstruck by a ghastly sight.

A swinging bulb illumines the room,
clearing away shadows and gloom,
starkly exposing the situation,
removing all manner of speculation.
I am forced to deal with a wraithful wrath,
        my home invaded by an Ectopath…
During life, a ne’er-do-well burgling intruder;
in the shroud, a crooked restless brooder.

A two-time loser, anonymous and hazy,
obviously a loafer, slackish and lazy.
A sticky-fingered thief, the collector of junk,
looting the living to fill a Hope Trunk.
Reaping and keeping what doesn’t belong,
but the furtive late visit has gone a bit wrong,
for my uninvited guest was caught in the act
        of robbing a grave as a matter of fact!

This chamber is my tomb, lavishly decked
with modern convenience, until they resurrect
my mummified body once doctors know how.
It was lonely in here, so I’m willing to allow
        the pest to remain for disturbing my rest.
If I don’t get back to sleep, in an isolated nest
one could use a little company, however drab —
even a shiftless spirit one foot from the slab.

To seal a loose draft I must batten the view
by closing storm shutters, for it just wouldn’t do
if a lachrymose lawbreaker managed to flee.
        “We are locked up tight and I have the key.
Rules are quite simple,” I lecture my chum.
“Only I can take it with me! No need to be glum.
We are both serving Death in a comfortable cell,
but I hold the cards. At least you don’t smell.”

2021 Lori R. Lopez

Lori R. Lopez is an author, poet, illustrator, and wearer of hats. Verse and stories have appeared in a variety of magazines and anthologies including Weirdbook, The Horror Zine, The Sirens Call, Spectral Realms, Space & Time, Illumen, Altered Reality, California Screamin’ (Foreword Poem), and several HWA Poetry Showcases. Books include The Dark Mister Snark, Leery Lane, An Ill Wind Blows, The Fairy Fly, and Darkverse: The Shadow Hours (nominated for an Elgin Award). Four of Lori’s poems have been nominated for Rhysling Awards. You can learn more about her at the website shared with two talented sons: https://www.fairyflyentertainment.com

Find more by Lori R. Lopez in the Author Index.

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