The Lonely Ghost Meets the Hungry Ghost

Holidays were the ghost’s favorite times. The dining room was vacant and quiet throughout most of the year, with occasional visits when the silver was polished or something needed temporary storage. But during the holidays, Thanksgiving and Christmas especially, the humans visited the ghost in her lonely room.

She had been there as long as she could remember. She didn’t even remember how she had died, or why she was tied to the dining room of all places. But there she was anchored, doomed to stay within the perimeter for all time.

Other ghosts flitted through from time to time. Just blips for only a moment, usually. Some stayed longer, but could never stay forever. Those who were doomed to wander must always wander, just as she must always stay in the dining room.

The room had changed a lot over the years. She had vague impressions of past humans and their renovations. New curtains, new paint, new carpet, no carpet, new windows once when a storm had blown out the current ones. A whole parade of various furniture from ornate hutches to rickety dining tables.

It didn’t matter, though. All that mattered were the humans who visited her in her lonely room. Ghosts, she had found, flourished by living vicariously through the humans. She found she could feed off of their joy and be content. It made her feel almost as if she were part of the family.

Almost. As long as she didn’t get too close. When she touched them, they shivered and pulled away from her as she sucked out their warmth. She didn’t like to do that. Other ghosts may like to make a spectacle about their existence, but she preferred to live a more quiet afterlife. So instead, she hovered at respectful distances as they devoured their plum pudding and roast beasts and even a tofurkey one year.

Now and then, there were no holidays. She knew people lived in the house, but sometimes her dining room was filled with boxes or other bric-a-brac. Sometimes the table—once it wasn’t even a proper table, just a card table—was covered in papers where nobody ever sat. During those years, she felt hungry. Faint. Like maybe she would wink out.

But some family always saved her. Fresh new couples with their young families, celebrating holidays in the traditions they were brought up in. And older couples who hosted generations of humans in their house each holiday. The warmth made her glow.

It was only a few months after Christmas when she noticed the silence. The stillness. The emptiness of a vacant house. She had heard the New Year’s Eve countdown from two rooms over, her toes scrunched against the boundary of the room. But after that, nothing. Not even a stirring of humans. Not even the blip of another ghost.

One of those people who showed houses—a realtor, she thought they were called—ushered through several people. Couples young and old. A rich bachelor. A businessman who wanted to turn it into apartments. The realtor hustled them all through the dining room so quickly that she barely got a sense of their feelings at all. The realtor oozed overwhelming dread, which tasted bitter and rank.

Something had happened in her house. The realtor was afraid.

No families came to take away her loneliness.

And after that profound vacantness just after the holidays, the visits became fewer and further between. The ghost blips came through frantically, as if fleeing from something.

“Wait,” she cried, hoping to catch one.

The poor thing was a shadow of a ghost, nothing more than a stirring in the dust. But it paused.

“What is it? What has happened?”

“The hungry ghost. We think he belonged to the kitchen, once,” he rasped, and was gone. And never came again.

And then one day she felt the hunger. The gnawing. And it pulled at her. She tried to escape, but couldn’t. At first she thought it was her own hunger, but it was more intense than anything she had ever felt. It was a biting, bottomless hunger, never able to be satiated. It frightened her.

A blobby shadow began to ooze over the boundary of her room. The hunger sharpened. It radiated from this creature. A ghost? But no, no ghost was ever so huge, so hungry.

“Who are you,” she asked, feeling faint against the onslaught.

It burbled in response, and it took her a moment to realize it was forming words. “Hungry. Still hungry.”

The hungry ghost. She shrank from it, as far as she could in her dining room prison. “What do you want?” she asked, although she knew.

The blob moaned and pressed forward. It reached for her with flabby phantasmal arms, its massive mouth opened wide, revealing jagged teeth that stabbed in all directions.

She pressed against the boundary of the dining room, straining against it with everything she had. “Help,” she whispered, but there was nobody left to hear her.

Was this what had driven off the humans? Or had it consumed them? Had it fed off of them, devoured them until there was nothing left and they fled? If only she could flee, as well. But not even the wandering ghosts had survived.

As the hungry ghost clutched her leg, she was shocked by sensation. When was the last time she had touched anything, even another ghost? Perhaps this was for the best.

She may be eaten by the hungry ghost, but at least she wouldn’t be lonely anymore.

As the hungry ghost wrapped its horrible blobby arms around her, she relaxed. She embraced the sensation as it consumed her. For one short moment, she felt joy at being a part of something more than herself.

But then all she felt was hunger. The hungry ghost continued to prowl, to consume everything it touched.

The hungry ghost left the dining room. There was nothing left to eat there.

Sara is a Kansas-grown author of the fantasy and horror persuasions. She is convinced that fantastical things are waiting for her just around the corner, and until she finds the right corner, she writes about those things instead.

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