Fiction / February 2008 (Issue 2)

The Ghost in The Mirror

by Robert Abel

Dear Meihong — Didn't write this (see attachment). I found it right here on the computer screen this morning, ready for printing. Can you explain it? Is this one of your tricks? Who else could have come here in the middle of the night and done such a thing? On the other hand, the door downstairs was locked as usual, including the chain lock, which no one, including you, could have  set in place and then have gone out the door. So maybe you or somebody sent this somehow over the web? Otherwise I have to believe something I'd rather not believe, i.e. I'm not alone in this loft. This was not sitting in my  email files, you see, but was right here, in the word processing program. Another odd thing. When I try to print it out, the paper comes out blank. Yes! But I can transmit it electronically. If you are responsible for  this trick, I beg you to explain it, because otherwise your dear friend and lover is going to go nuts. It's not funny, Meihong! It's too weird, even for  you. Love and kisses, but please cut out these strange techie games. Jerry

Aldrich bay was where I was changed into a rat by a curse where I was shot down by that monk and I had no choice but to hide out in tin hau temple on shau kei wan a smoky place with all that incense but plenty of nooks and crannies to take cover in and devotees leaving plenty of food and it was as a rat that i died under the boot of a goldsmith from whom I admit it I was trying to steal and horde some golden jewellry in the vain hope that the curse would be lifted and I could come back to life as a human and have some gold to spend and maybe get my revenge on that hypocrite the murdering monk but now I'm just this ghost rat floating around my old haunts in north point and trying to find some way to break the spell which is unjust unjust unjust cruel cruel cruel to turn a man into a rat and then a ghost rat and how to nullify this curse will be the effort and purpose of my afterlife existence until it succeeds

I discovered computer keys are easy to press and maybe now can get my message out concerning this terrible injustice and terrible curse which I couldn't do with typewriters

Yes, I am asking for human help and intervention please help me I will tell you how to break this curse maybe and I will reward you with secret information when the curse is lifted and I can finally move onto the next level and end this suffering as a ghost rat you can't imagine the torment of it the frustration the hell of it please help me become free

Its worse than you can imagine because I was disfigured when a butcher at the shau kei wan fish market saw me trying to make off with a fish and his cleaver took off my tail and that is why rats have to be stealthy and make their moves at night as I learned the hard way but the point is you cannot move on to the next level if you are disfigured so you see I absolutely must eradicate this curse don't you understand I can't go forward as a disfigured damned rat I have to get back my human form

Forgive me if I seem rude and angry but more than a hundred years as a rat and ghost rat have worn down my patience this is the third computer I have visited and used and won't somebody listen please listen

Jerry, dear — If you think I would send you a message pretending to be some kind of ghost rat living under the spell of some curse, you are just plain squirrelly yourself. In fact, I don't know anyone these days who believes in that kind of stuff except maybe my aunt Gloria who is in her sixties and who to our continuing disgust likes to consult with fortune tellers about what to do with her money and how to write her will and what days of the month are the best for doing this and that. Of course feng shui. But she takes it to the extreme and won't go out at all on days with a 4 in them and April 4 (4/4) she won't even get out of bed. Ditto 4/14. She would have a fit if she even knew I was writing these numbers down. But how could you think I would waste my time writing stories about ghost rats? Jerry, you're sweet, but sometimes I think you're also weird. Kisses, Meihong. P.S.: You're right that it is impossible to print that funny story out. I'm looking into the code to see how whoever did this joke also did that trick.

Dear Meihong — "Squirrelly"? Where did you pick up that word? At least you didn't say "ratty". But when I came home from work today I found this, right below your e-mail denying any connection with this joke, game, whatever it is. Should I be worried? XXXOOO J.

Let me prove this to you go to tsut tz mui 7 sisters find the shanghai barbershop with lace curtains in the window and then go down the alley and count 7 bricks from the corner of the building lift this brick and you'll find a very valuable item whch I stole as a rat before I was killed and you can have this if you help me and if you bring it back here I will show myself and tell you what you must do to free me from this hell

Meihong? What do you think? J.

Jerry — I think if you go into that neighborhood and start lifting up bricks in the alley you will probably get your noggin bashed in or arrested for defacing public property. I think someone is leading you on. But you may as well follow the directions and see if there is anything to this besides someone trying to send you on a wild goose chase for the hell of it. I'm not sure I even know where Seven Sisters is, do you? My mom says it has been gone since she was a girl. There's a story about that place which is a bit eerie. One of seven sisters died and the other six in their grief and because they thought they could be with their sister in the afterlife also killed themselves. Some goddess — probably Kuilin — turned them all into stones. Whoever your "rat" really is, they seem to know something about old North Point. But you could probably get that stuff from a book, too. I'd go with you and stand guard but I have to go to Hainan tomorrow for a meeting with some bigshots who want to buy a hotel and demolish it and put up a new one and I'm supposed to check on their credit. Talk about scary. What's a ghost rat compared to these guys with who knows what connections? Talk to you when I get back and maybe we can go dancing on the week end? XXXOOO me.

Meihong, dearest — Can't wait to see you. You won't believe what I have here on my desk. J.

Jerry — Hate to tell you but my Hainan visit has been extended into next week. This turns out to be an especially complex transaction and we have a mountain of paperwork and records to analyze. The financial group which wants to do this hotel deal is a big patchwork of enterprises, some of which appear only to exist on paper so we have to be especially careful. My boss has chewed his fingernails to the quick and is now working on his toenails. Miss you! Some great photography here — painted fishing boats. What could you possibly have on your desk that warrants such mystery? XXOO M.

Meihong — All right. I followed the directions that were on computer, supposedly from some ghost rat trying to remove a curse and using my computer when I'm sleeping or at work to tell me how to help him do it. I'm like supposed to dig up these bricks in some alley in North Point. Turns out as you probably know there is not just one Shanghai barbershop but several which fit the description. In addition, it is not as if you can sneak around digging up bricks anywhere in HK without a million eyes on you. I mean, have you ever seen a deserted street in HK? Have you ever tried to dig up a brick? Believe me, I felt like the world's biggest fool. I borrowed this crowbar from Alan, you know, who has all these tools he never uses, and I carried a clipboard and wore a tie, trying to look like some kind of official engineer, and I mucked around in those alleys that seemed to fit the description for almost three hours, until it began to get dark. Here's the thing: in one of them I saw a rat sitting on a brick! Big as life. My hair went straight up, believe you me. I know what you're thinking — how odd can it be that somebody sees a rat in an alley in HK? Under the circumstances, however, I had to wonder if I might be getting a rat sign from our rat ghost. (Just writing it down makes me think I have gone nuts!) But here's the other thing: I dug out that brick — actually a rather large and irregular cobblestone — in about twenty minutes. Sweat. Blisters. Damned stubborn thing. Finally pried the bugger out. And right there underneath it — Meihong — was this dirt-covered box, which, when I dug it out, was one of those beautiful antique Chinese boxes, about as big as a shoe, leather and brass, with an ivory clasp. Since by then I had something of a street audience, I just casually put the brick back in place and poked around as if I were looking for something else. I mean of course I had the box in my hand. Casually as I could, and ignoring questions from the curious folks there, I made my way out onto Electric Avenue and caught a cab back here.

I brushed that box off in the bathroom sink and polished it up and then I put it on my desk until I got the courage to open it up. I wished you were here. I wish you were here now. Inside is this exquisite gold bracelet. The core portion of it appears to be solid gold, but it is embroidered — that's the only word I can think of for it — embroidery — with fine gold wires, or threads, so that it looks like a gold bracelet dripping with gold lace. Does anyone make things like this anymore? I'm no expert, but the craftsmanship seems exquisite, and who would ever wear such a thing? There's a mark on the inside which some expert could probably identify but right now I'm afraid even to think of showing this to somebody. In fact, I'm afraid to even have possession of this thing in my own flat!

What I'm wondering right now is whether somebody stole this thing and is using me just to get it out of hiding. But what about the rat? Too much of a coincidence? You've got to see this thing to believe it! I hope when you see me again my hair won't be white, and I don't mean from aging. Please come home soon. XXXOOO, J.

Jer — My God! Yes, I'd be worried if I were you. A "rat" tells you where to find a maybe priceless antique. Since I don't believe in ghosts, and since I am myself dealing with some obviously scary types of human beings who get their wealth from God knows where and doing what, I would say you have definitely gotten caught up in something unsavory. My advice: go right to the police. I hope you haven't deleted those e-mails, since you may need the evidence. Please? Wherever that thing came from, it can't be anything you want to be responsible for. I'll bet that if you try to sell it, you'll find yourself slapped right into Dai Gwoon — Big Station — being asked a lot of questions you can't answer. Now you've got my hair turning white. XOXO me

Darling — I saw a rat last night, a rat without a tail, sitting on my desk next to the box with the bracelet in it. I think that's what I saw. In the shadows, but gone as soon as I flicked on the light. Then this on the computer:

Burn the bracelet please burn it and I will be free to move on as a human and be free I will reward you

I'm going to burn it. Try to. How the hell do you burn something made of gold? — Love, Jer

Meihong — Borrowed from Alan one of those propane torches that plumbers use. Put the bracelet in the sink in the bathroom but also in my cast iron wok. How crazy is this, I asked myself, about to melt down an exquisite antique gold bracelet probably worth a few million dollars. The thing was not going to burn, I figured, just turn into a pool like a bunch of egg yolks. I stood there like a jerk for half an hour debating with myself and then to hell with it I said and I fired up the torch. No sooner had I touched the flame to the bracelet than it disappeared in a blue swirl of smoke, and it was like it gave a cry like a cockatoo getting its neck wrung — gone! And right there in the mirror I saw from behind me a face, a man's face, beaming, and on the head was this black silk skull cap with a red button and then he started laughing and I whirled around — nothing and nobody there. Nothing but the tang of that blue smoke. I shut down the torch with shaking hands.

The wok in the sink was filled with money. I'll show you when you get back here. Ghost money, you know, the kind you burn for the departed? I guess when I die I'll be able to bribe my way into heaven, that is, if someone doesn't change me into a rat first! XOXOXOXO J.

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