You are alone in the house and you feel something grab your ankle. Her icy fingers weren’t entirely unexpected. After all, you’re one of the few people who can still see with Emma, now that she’s dead.
“I thought your spirit was bound to the Angry Roast,” you say, referring to what had been Emma Soames’ favorite coffee house, when she was alive. You look down at her pale hand, which has managed to solidify itself around your foot. You can still see your scuffed trainer through it.
“Esther, you’ve spoken to me,” she whispers. “By acknowledging me, you’ve bound your soul to mine.” Her voice has always been a bit breathy, even when she was alive. It used to send shivers down your spine for an entirely different reason. “Thus, I can leave the Angry Roast and come to you, if only for a few minutes.”
“Why?” you ask. You don’t fool yourself for one moment that Emma has come to see you. All those times you sat in the Angry Roast, trying to capture her long, auburn tresses, which escaped from her mashed back beret, her thin arms reaching out of her baggy sweaters, she’d never noticed you. She’d been too wrapped up in her own notebooks, filled with fictional characters, when she wasn’t reading the battered, abandoned Penguin classics in the Angry Roast. She had always been far more interested in dead poets than you.
On the other hand, she had started to see you, after her body had been discovered in the alley outside. When she’d tried to catch someone’s eye, anyone eye in the Angry Roast, only to realize you were the only one who could see her. Now, she needed someone to pick up her books of Byron, Shelley, Rosetti, and Baudelaire, to open them, so she could read them. Opening books yourself when you were a ghost was a tricky business. Not to mention the patrons of the Angry Roast tended to be started by the sight of books floating around by themselves.
“I need your help, Esther,” she says in her breathless manner, which truly is breathless now. All right, maybe it’s not just the cold that makes you tremble, even now that she’s dead. “Soul collectors have appeared in the Angry Roast. They’re after me.”
Someone knocks on your front door, startling Emma into dematerializing. Her hand doesn’t let go of your ankle, it vanishes.
“It’s them!” she whispered into your ear, chilling your flesh. “Please, Esther, ignore them!”
“We need to get rid of them,” you say. You turn towards the door, wincing inwardly at your use of the word ‘we’. Once more, Emma has managed to make her business your business.
You walk across your apartment, towards your door. Another knock raps sharply on its wooden surface, demanding your attention.
You glance through your peephole. Two men and one woman stand outside. All of them are wearing suits. All of them are carrying bibles.
You grin to yourself. Of course. They’re soul collectors. There’s many ways of collecting.
You open the door.
The two men smile at you. The woman looks at you with cold eyes.
You don’t say hello. You don’t ask if you can help them with anything. You don’t offer them anything. You cross your arms and wait for them to make the first move.
“Beautiful day, isn’t it?” one of the man says. He offers his bible to you. “We’d like to talk to you about the Lord.”
He doesn’t waste time, you think with some amusement. Hasn’t he ever heard of foreplay?
“Why don’t you invite us in, so we can?” the woman asks. The request is more of a command. She pushes her way forward, trying to elbow her way past you, into your home.
Soul collectors they might be. Good salespeople they are not.
“No,” you say. You block the woman’s way into your apartment.
“What was that?” the woman asks. Something glints within her eyes with hungry malice. She raises a hand, but she doesn’t touch you. She can’t. You haven’t given her anything to hold over you.
“No, you may not come in,” you say. You look from the woman to each of the men. “I don’t want to talk to you. You’re not welcome here. Go away.”
You take a step back and slam the door.
They’ll return, of course. Soul collectors always do. Plus, they’re hunting Emma. However, you’ve raised a barrier between them and yourself with your will. This is your home, where you’ve drank coffee, painted, and rolled dice with your friends. The soul collectors aren’t getting in here that easily.