There are spaces between, y’know? Ever found yourself in a room so crowded you lose track of yourself? Just like that you realize you’re the only one there, the only one ever. Children know their imaginary friends are real. On the other end of life we learn we were right in the first place, maybe too late, maybe not.
Henry went through the open door and Judy followed. He disappeared into the floor and Judy made her way to the elevators. Soon he was at her side. “Whatchu doin’ now?”
“This is just too much for me,” Judy whispered. “You go ahead. I’ll wait until someone takes the elevator down and catch a ride with them.”
“Ya don’t have to whisper!” Henry screeched.
“I know, I know,” Judy whispered. “They can’t hear us or see us. We are dead. We are ghosts.”
“Now yer catchin’ on. Oh, an’ don’ go tryin’ t’ find yer body,” Henry warned. “You shouldna got outside it in the firs’ place. Ya gotta find another way or jus’ go ’round an’ have fun like me. It’s too late for you to die normal now.”
“I was a lot of things in my life,” Judy said. “Believe me, normal wasn’t one of them. I guess it’s fitting that I can’t have a normal death either.”
“Yeah, yer a real riot,” Henry commented. “I’m goin’ to the kids now, that’s on the secon’ floor. Whatever you do, don’ leave this hospital an’ get lost. Ain’ nothin’ sadder ‘n forever than a ghost losin’ its way.”
Henry dissipated like a wisp of smoke. Judy decided to walk the corridor, maybe see what was happening behind a few closed doors. She ended up going to the end of the hall where she stared through the sliding glass doors that opened onto an outdoor patio area. She pushed her hand against the handle. The door didn’t budge but Judy almost fell through it when her hand met no resistance.
“Don’ go out there.” Henry stood next to her. His face wasn’t wearing its usual smirk and, well, he seemed almost human. “I don’ know whatsa matter with me,” he said. “I ain’ never worried ’bout nobody my whole time. I got lotsa stuff to be doin’ but I can’t concentrate knowin’ yer jus’ gonna go an’ get yerself in a jam.”
“Why can’t I go out there?” Judy asked.
“It’s windy out there,” Henry said. “You get yerself sucked up ‘n end up jus’ any ol’ place. Outside ain’ no favorable place for ghostin’. Come on downstairs. I’ll meetcha at the elevator on the secon’ floor. I don’ really need much help but if yer with me I won’ have to worry ’bout you gettin’ in trouble.”
“You’re really quite a nice boy when you drop that devil-may-care attitude.” Judy reached out and touched his face. “Henry, I do believe you are blushing.”
“I ain’ nothin’ nice,” Henry hissed. “See ya ’round!” He fell through the floor. Judy took one more wistful glance out the glass then turned away.
She followed a couple onto the elevator. She had to ride down and up a few times because most of those on the upper floors were going down to the main floor. She had to wait for someone to stop and get off at the second floor. The stairs were tempting but she couldn’t get used to the uncomfortable feeling when people moved and stepped through her. At least in the elevator they stepped in and tended to stand in one place.
Henry was waiting for her when Judy finally made it to the second floor. He behaved himself and stayed within sight, then stopped at a set of double doors. A sign above the doors read, ‘Children’s Wing’. “Here’s what we do,” Henry began without preamble, “There’s eight or ten kids in there. They’re allays gettin’ tests ‘n stuff so I ain’ sure exac’ly how many there are. We’ll touch each one of ’em, like hold their hand or somethin’. I woulda picked out one of ’em, made friends an’ had ‘im help me but now I ain’ got time.”
“What will transpire when we touch them?” Judy asked.
“What will what? Hey, don’ waste those ten dollar words on me.” Henry was impatient and could hardly stand still as he spoke to her.
Judy repeated the question, “What will happen between me and a child whose hand I touch?”
“Yer jus’ gettin’ a feel for ’em,” Henry answered. “They’re mos’ly older kids, nobody under ten ‘cept one l’il girl but we won’ worry ’bout her. Ya jus’ give ’em a feel so I can figger out who’s gonna do what tomorrow night.” Henry stepped toward the entrance. “C’mon, follow me through. Yer gonna have to learn to do this or you ain’ gon’ be able to do no ghostin’.”
Henry walked through the steel door and Judy followed. She felt a ‘thwop’ sound while passing through and meant to ask Henry if he felt the same thing but he was already off down the hallway muttering something about just getting the job done.
Judy forgot her own problems, even the fact that she was dead, when she entered the roomful of terminally ill children. There were twelve beds in the rectangular room, arranged six to a side. Each space was equipped with a curtain track on its ceiling so the patients could have a modicum of privacy if they chose to. Only one of the spaces had the curtains pulled shut.
Henry was moving from bed to bed, holding hands, touching a face here and there. ‘This is no place for a Halloween party,’ Judy thought. The wall behind each bed was decorated with pictures obviously drawn by the occupants of the beds. There were ghosts and goblins in the pictures, witches flying through the air.
Judy drifted toward the space with the curtain pulled. “Don’ bother with that one,” Henry advised. “She’s too l’il an’ too sick.”
Judy stepped through the curtain. The bed, a replica of the one Judy had spent the past three weeks in, seemed much larger because of the tiny person it held. Judy was unable to determine the gender of the child by looking at its face. Thin wisps of hair lay like fine thread on the pillow. Judy pulled her eyes from the child and saw a picture of daisies on the wall. ‘Loreli’ was scrawled across the bottom of the drawing. Judy looked upon the child’s face once more, entranced by the fine web of veins on the closed eyelids. “So you’re a little girl.”
Henry poked his head through the curtain. Judy almost warned him to be quiet but remembered that no one living could hear them. “C’mon,” Henry urged, “Don’ mess with that poor l’il girl. C’mon out an’ see my plans.”
“I’ll be out in a few minutes,” Judy assured him. “Be patient, Henry. I need to sit and rest a bit.”