The word eidolism means a belief in ghosts.
Until last week, when a ghost visited me for the first time, I didn't believe in ghosts. I didn't even think about ghosts much. I thought about plants—and no, that's not weird. Plants are fascinating. They're part of our world, but they live in a mysterious world of their own at the same time. They're so...different. The way they turn sunlight into food. The way they use chemicals to talk to each other. The way they lure birds and bugs into helping them make more plants.
That's why I'm going to be a plant scientist like Ms. Winger and my Uncle Everett. I'll work in the Botanical Gardens right here in Clear Creek. My name will be on the sign at the entrance of the Gardens: Chrysantha Howe, Botanist.
I had the future planned out.
The ghost was not in the plan.
After the first visit, I still didn't really believe in ghosts. But when she came back the second time, I had to change my mind. I hadn't been dreaming and I wasn't crazy. The only other alternative was: I had seen a ghost.
I started researching ghost visitations. What made them stick around in this world? How did they choose who to haunt? Why had no one ever caught a legitimate sighting on video or made a recording?
Mostly what I learned was that people argued a lot about whether ghosts existed. People who believed in ghosts liked other people who believed in ghosts. People who didn't believe in ghosts thought people who did were crazy.
I was not crazy.
Finding out the answers to my questions about ghosts should have been easy. I had my own personal ghost to ask. But every time she visited me, I couldn't say a word. My thoughts got all tangled and my breath stuck in my throat and I got dizzy. Having my own personal ghost was not helpful. The visits were...creepy. Like are-you-here-because-I'm-going-to-die creepy. Maybe the creep factor was why no one had ever documented a ghost.
I shivered, though I hadn't seen the ghost in hours and cheerful sunlight warmed the early June morning. The Water Garden, a magical green fairyland of trickling streams and arched bridges, closed in around me. Shadows shifted. Bushes rustled.
I'd never seen a ghost before, not even when my dad died. Why had one decided to haunt me now?
"Just lucky, I guess," I said. "What do you think, Barkley?"
My long-legged Schnauzer scratched his ear with his hind foot.
"That's what I think too."
I tugged Barkley's ear and picked up one of the quarter-size flat stones scattered beside the path. I tossed the stone into the deep end of the Water Garden pond.
Barkley scrambled to the bank, then yipped and jumped back, almost jerking the leash from my hand. The ruff on his neck rose straight up. He stared at the pond, his lips curled, his teeth bared.
I gripped the red plastic leash more tightly.
The ghost liked water.
In the pond, twin black shafts of water shifted into the wavy outline of feminine eyes. Pale lips, reed-thin and white as unearthed slugs, parted. The lips tried to form a word. A gurgle rose from the depths like a deep sigh.
Bubbles roiled the surface of the water.
Barkley growled again. Then he barked, as if to prove the ghost hadn't silenced him.
I tried to speak, to ask the ghost what she wanted. My tongue clung to the roof of my mouth. My lips moved in a quivery jiggle as if I were silently whistling. But I could not force out a sound, much less a whole question.
Maybe if I could think a question, the ghost and I could communicate. Maybe she didn't need actual words to hear me and to answer.
I tipped forward. My glasses slipped down my nose. I wanted to ask her...something...something...important...
What would touching her feel like?
I stretched out my hand.
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