Free Spirit | Flash Fiction

While the Black Pages provided an ample amount of important information for potential customers and clients of the many magical and mystical businesses who advertised their services between its covers, one important detail was left out, on the assumption that it was Common Sense: on Halloween Night, the spirits of the dead are free to roam where they please. Barnabas Bonham, known to his friends as Barney, had not been aware of this when he was alive. It took him eight months to discover this, and only early enough to get slightly further than he’d ever managed to walk before he returned to the scene of his death.

Barney was not a stupid man. He knew a great many things about a great many subjects. The problem was, none of them were common. He had been a relatively powerful wizard in his day, but failed to observe basic facts of his environment, such as how dry the trees around him were, or the brewing storm overhead. He had been so focused on figuring out how to make his old bicycle fly, like he’d seen in E.T., that he didn’t notice the lightning strike that set half the forest on fire.

His bones did not burn. He was, instead, crushed under falling trees, and remarkably spared the sweet relief of passing to the great Beyond.

Barney could not remember what year it had been when he died, except that he’d had two young children and a wife to care for. She had died peacefully between Halloweens, leaving his son and his daughter to fend for themselves.

Kenneth had turned to journalism, writing for a daily newspaper in the non-magical community, completely devoid of any longing to follow in his father’s footsteps. Once a year, Barney was able to observe his son at work, demonstrating a small fraction of his magical potential in the Charm he had developed while interviewing people. Without explanation, Kenneth was able to get people talking about the most personal and intimate details of their lives if he needed them to. He had so far not used it to court himself a wife; Barney wasn’t sure if he was happy that his son was still single, or just proud that he hadn’t abused the power that he had been left.

In all the time that Barney had been dead, he had never heard Kenneth speak about him. He had taken to merely observing his son quietly, for just a few minutes, to see how he was doing.

His daughter, Suzie, on the other hand, had taken up a place in the magical community that was both respected and spat upon in equal measure: she was part of the policing force of Damage Control. Halloween was a dangerous time of the year for her. People in the community often saw it as a free pass for mischief and for letting their guard down; while certain, more responsible members of the community could get away with revealing their true forms, Suzie was on the tail of something much too dangerous to be in its true form: a werewolf.

The beast – Barney wasn’t sure if it was a man or a woman – had been killing people all over town for a week, its transformation completely out of the sync with the full moon, its victims suffering dreadfully; some of them died, others were beginning to experience the transformation themselves.

And, while Suzie was searching a dark alley for it behind a bar where most victims had been drinking, the werewolf was watching her. Barney was also watching her, from another part of the alley, and his eyes landed square on the werewolf’s eyes, glinting yellow death in the darkness.

“Suzie dear, you’ve got company,” he told her, the whole effort in vain. He had been trying to communicate with her for more years than he dared admit he’d been dead. The werewolf edged slowly closer. “I mean it. He looks angry.” Barney wasn’t sure when he’d made the decision to put a gender on a beast. It had male anger, he supposed. The sort of outrage only a man could experience when he wasn’t getting his way, because of the decision of a woman.

Damage Control were a fairly well armed bunch, in the grand scheme of things, but Suzie had only a silver knife in her hand to protect her, and that was mostly out of sight. It would do little to kill a werewolf. It would barely slow the beast down, especially not one the size she was following. It must have been a large man, Barney thought. He’d met werewolves before, back in his heyday. Werewolves, like sportsmen, were smaller back then.

The padding of the werewolf’s feet against the concrete path caught Suzie’s attention, but too late. It was already too close for her to react, teeth bared, claws extended.


Barney couldn’t help himself, or explain his actions. A flash of light exploded from his hands as he placed himself between his daughter and the fangs of the wolf, throwing the attacker into the air. The whinny of a wounded canine disappeared into the night as the werewolf retreated.

“That showed you,” Barney said proudly.

“Dad?” Suzie whispered. He turned to her, her face stripped of colour. “It’s really you. After all this time. We thought…” She tried to place a hand on his shoulder, to pull him in for a hug, maybe, and her fingers slipped through him. “Oh. You’re really gone, aren’t you?”

“Really,” he agreed. “For the most part. Just got a little bit stuck, I guess.”

A crack of light on the horizon caught their attention. The sun was beginning to rise. Neither Suzie nor Barney had noticed the time. 

“Dad, where are you buried? I can send a Reaper. I can free you.”

The horizon was on fire, and he smiled. “You know, I can’t really remember. I must take note for next year, eh?”

He left her standing there, casting a shadow where he stood. Suzie would be fine, he thought for a moment. He’d see her again, his little girl.

He just had to wait. He just had to remember.


About Paul Carroll

Paul Carroll is a writer, born, raised and still living in Dublin. By day he's a student and bookseller, by night he writes fiction and uses social media.
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