There was a large wood in a beautiful part of the land. And there were two ghosts: one who haunted the first section of the wood where the cars parked, and another who haunted the second section of the wood where the river ran.
And there was also a ghost who was called the Old Gypsy Ghost, who haunted the whole wood.
When the first ghost who haunted the first section of the wood jumped out on people, they did not react. No matter how much noise this ghost made, how much litter he threw about, how many tree branches he pulled down, no one screamed and ran because no one saw him at all.
And when the second ghost who haunted the second section of the wood jumped out on people, they did not react either. No matter how many benches this second ghost wrecked, how many birds he tormented, how many woodland signs he vandalized, no one was screaming and running because no one could see him at all.
People were happily walking their dogs and passing both these ghosts by. According to them, the two simply did not exist.
For the Old Gypsy Ghost, who was very old, it was a different story. People saw him, and when they did they reacted. He would appear in unexpected places, in both sections of the wood, and people would scream and run in fear because he was there right in front of their eyes, and could appear and disappear at will, beneath trees, beside the river, even in the car park. And when they walked their dogs they didn’t pass him by. Instead they and their dogs screamed and ran because he was the greatest scary presence in the wood.
One day, the two modern ghosts decided to take the Old Gypsy Ghost aside, asking him why no one ran from them in fear, which was after all what people were supposed to do in the presence of ghosts. What were they doing wrong? What was his secret?
‘I am just an ordinary old ghost,’ the Old Gypsy Ghost replied. ‘I appear and disappear and people run when they see me, simply because I am dead.’
‘Can we learn to do that?’ the two ghosts asked. ‘We want to learn everything you know.’
The Old Gypsy Ghost agreed, and gave them strict instructions on how to make traditional ghost noises, appear unexpectedly, waft and glide on moonlit nights, rattle chains, and do all the things ghosts should do. ‘These important things will help you to be real ghosts,’ he told them.
The two modern ghosts were very excited as they followed the instructions, applying ghostly techniques for a whole month - but without success because, still, no one was reacting to their ghostly antics, and they started to become extremely angry.
They went and found the Old Gypsy Ghost to complain; they wanted to see about him. ‘Your suggestions do not work,’ said the first ghost, attempting to put a hand on the Old Gypsy Ghost’s throat, except he couldn’t, because he couldn’t get hold of him. ‘You are a charlatan,’ said the second ghost, attempting to press the Old Gypsy Ghost up against a tree, except he couldn’t because he couldn’t throw his weight against the Old Gypsy Ghost.
They lunged at the Old Gypsy Ghost but passed right through him; they released their knuckles upon him but there was no effect. He was thus left unharmed because, as he told them, again and again, he was dead, and nothing could or should be done to him, apart from the fact that he was also a very traditional ghost, which he was proud of. So the two ghosts were unable to teach him the lesson they believed he deserved.
‘Why don’t you take the ghost test?’ the Old Gypsy Ghost then suggested, as a solution. ‘You can then find out what you are doing wrong.’
‘The ghost test!’ the two ghosts scoffed, together. But they eventually agreed, because there was absolutely nothing else they could do. ‘All right then, that sounds reasonable,’ they said.
The Old Gypsy Ghost spat on his palm and they all shook hands to seal the deal, which meant they couldn’t go back on what they’d agreed. They then followed the Old Gypsy Ghost along the woodland path to the middle of the wood, where they came across a family sitting having a picnic: a man, a woman, and two children.
‘You must go and hit the man on the nose,’ the Old Gypsy Ghost told them.
The first ghost laughed loud. ‘What are you talking about? We can’t get anyone’s attention, so how can we get his? We can’t hit you, and we certainly can’t scare any mortal in this wood.’
The second ghost laughed loud too. ‘Hit a man on the nose! Test! This is no test. How are we supposed to do this? Ghost test indeed!’
The two modern ghosts became complacent, because they knew they could not affect anyone. They strode forward and walloped the man hard on the nose anyway, just to see what would happen, and just as he was half way through eating his cheese sandwich for his lunch and all. To their surprise the man immediately fell over, his wife shrieking beside him, his children leaping up to run away.
‘It worked!’ cried the first ghost.
‘Eureka!’ cried the second ghost.
Someone had at last reacted to them both, they cried, with joy. But while they were happily dancing up and down, someone came up behind them. It was the man with the bloody nose.
‘Now I’m going to kill you,’ he announced. ‘You struck me when I was innocently sitting here eating my lunch with my family.’
The two ghosts laughed loud. ‘But you can’t kill us. We’re ghosts,’ they cried, together.
But the man took no notice. ‘Ghosts!’ he scoffed. ‘Ghosts! You will be ghosts by the time I’ve finished with you!’
‘But you’re not supposed to do this,’ the first ghost tried to cry out.
‘We’re supposed to scare you!’ the second ghost tried to cry out.
The man would not hear their concerns. He began chasing the ghosts up and down, trying to catch them. He didn’t care. They had hit him on the nose and he wanted them to pay. And he made them run so hard that they were breathless, because they were so scared of him.
‘Help us!’ they cried out to the Old Gypsy Ghost. ‘Do something. He’s about to kill us!’
The Old Gypsy Ghost laughed, amused to see a mortal scaring the hell out of two ghosts. ‘You’d better keep running,’ he advised the two modern ghosts. ‘You wanted to affect mortals. Now you have!’
‘Not this way, not this way,’ the two ghosts continued shouting, as they ran and ran, with the man chasing them, all the way out of the wood.
The two modern ghosts were never seen in the same wood again, so they could never wreck benches, ruin trees, menace birds, or vandalize woodland signs.
The Old Gypsy Ghost shook his head and folded his arms, leaning against a favourite tree. ‘Ghosts ain’t what they used to be, are they?’ he said to the tree beside him, who had become a friend. The tree nodded and agreed. ‘Ghosts ain’t what they used to be,’ he echoed, remembering the old days when ghosts were ghosts.
The Old Gypsy Ghost, with the blessing of the tree, then walked out of the wood and moved into another old wood where he taught yet more ghosts to be real ghosts, because there were so many bad ones around these days. He made it his task to get them to behave appropriately and politely if they at all wanted to haunt woods.
It was true that the Old Gypsy Ghost couldn’t
stand vandals, whether they were dead or alive.
© Patrick Jasper Lee. From a book of short stories: Complacent Ghosts.
In : Romani Gypsy
Tags: romani gypsy "patrick jasper lee" ghost wood trees.