For the record, I never believed he was a ghost. That would’ve taken a level of reclusive ignorance that even I, Blackwood Hollow’s teen troglodyte and tea-leaf reader, could not claim to possess. When he showed up two weeks prior to the incident, even if his highly unoriginal “the entire world bores me” air hadn’t announced his mundane humanity, the Hollow’s Tribune did by running a brief profile on Blackwood’s two newest residents: a single mother and her son escaping the bustle of the city. This I considered to be pretty sure proof of nonspirithood.
So you may be wondering why when the kid with the raven black hair and freckled pixie nose sat down at our lunch table I played along. It wasn’t the first time some peer of mine had the brilliant idea to pretend to be some kind of spirit, like I couldn’t tell the difference. When you’ve spent the greater part of your time consorting with spirits, these sorts of occurrences are inevitable. I like to think they keep me grounded to humanity in their harmless devilry, or reaffirm why I choose spirits for company instead of other mortals.
Anyway, Puck is a name for mischievous spirits (which he would know, were he literate enough to read Shakespeare), so maybe this is why I forgave the newcomer. I was slightly disappointed to see him so soon in league with Wesley and George, the two most unoriginal teenage boys imaginable, but something in the earnestness with which he played his ghost-part brought an honor to his impish namesake I could not ignore.
“I’m Sybil,” I said, and extended a hand to shake.
“Puck,” he said, momentarily forgetting himself and his corporeality and stretching his hand forward. He stopped at the last moment, holding his palm up to the cafeteria light over head as though he were seeing it for the first time. “Do I seem…translucent…to you?” he asked.
I heard Jakob whisper something in my ear and forced a straight face. “Yes…yes!” I leaned so close to Puck’s hand that my nose almost touched it, and celebrated in the look of anxious discomfort that seeped through his face. “Yes! You seem very transparent to me.”
Jakob didn’t like Puck from the beginning, but to tell you the truth, I was looking forward to having a flesh-and-blood human friend, for at least a short while, even if it wasn’t a real friendship.
I have been a Seer for as long as I can remember, which exempts me from most monotonous human experiences like Homecoming or studying for SATs, but that also means that I don’t get human friends who I can actually high-five or introduce to the somewhat psychotic aunt who lives in the downstairs bedroom of our two bedroom shack.
See, I didn’t want him to get hurt, just like I’m sure he didn’t want to hurt me by pretending to be a ghost and all. In fact, I didn’t even know he followed me to the graveyard.
I guess now I should explain a bit about Jakob.
Everyone pretends that Coots on his tractor is the oldest resident in Blackwood Hollow, but Jakob is older. He was buried in Blackwood Hollow graveyard before Coots was born, which gives you an idea of how miserable and lonely he gets.
Once a year, he goes to visit his gravestone, and once a year I go with him. Once a year, All Hallow’s Eve gives him back a small part of his fading corporeality, and he can set his spirit hand against the cool gray surface that bears his name, and linger over what it is to feel. Once a year.
Then, one year — this year — Puck is there. And if there’s one thing the spirits of Blackwood Hollow don’t like on All Hallow’s Eve, it’s a spectator.