My Half Hour Child

There it was again, the ghostly tug at my skirt. Every day at precisely half past five, it was there. I could set my watch by it—and I had before after a power outage.

“There’s a glass of milk on the counter along with a PBJ and a banana.”

The pressure relieved on my skirt and a few minutes later I heard the heavy scrape of the chair and the clatter of dishes. The sandwich raised and lowered without any bites disappearing. The milk sloshed over the edge of the glass, spilling onto the chair and dripping down to the floor each time my ghostly child tipped it back for a drink.

I would need to use a sippy cup next time. At least I had laminate flooring and not carpeting.

The sandwich and half empty glass returned to the table. The chair scraped against the floor again. Arms wrapped tightly around my midsection and then the pressure slowly faded.

My haunting began nearly three months ago. A tug on my shirt or my skirt. The tugging would carry on intermittently for half an hour if I ignored it, then it would fade away. On the fourth day of my haunting, I carried on with my life like normal. Made dinner for myself, only to have ghostly hands take it to the table and eat it in front of me.

I couldn’t bring myself to eat it after the child faded.

Through trial and error I learned that peanut butter and jelly was the preferred meal. Which was fine with me, that was inexpensive to make.

Once I was caught in traffic on the way home from work. I hit up a drive through and then spent a fortune detailing my car to get the ketchup stains out of my passenger seat. Now I made certain I was always at home at the haunting hour—and kept my car stocked with mess-free snacks just in case.

I called a psychic that first week and an exorcist the next, but I never had them come out to the house.

This was my half hour child. I felt an obligation to provide care. An obligation that turned into worry—what if my child was only receiving one meal a day? Were other families haunted at breakfast and lunch time?

Once I left out a bowl of cereal before I went into work. I came home and it was soggy and untouched. Another day I left a sack lunch on the counter. It remained precisely where I left it. At least I already had his PBJ ready for him that night, I just transferred it onto a plate and put the juicebox with it.

***

Tonight there was no tug.

I checked the time on the microwave again. It definitely read 5:30pm. I checked my phone. Maybe it was just fast. It wasn’t.

I paced around the kitchen for the rest of the night.

I’d had a child for three months. And then, just like that, my child vanished.

I still made a PBJ every evening after work and left it on the counter.

For three months I threw away a sandwich at the end of every night.

And on the first day of the fourth month, I felt the tug again.

“You’re late. Dinner is on the table.”

It was 5:31pm.

At the age of six, Eliza was certain of two things. The first was that she had stories to tell. The second was that she had no talent for illustrating them herself. Talent or no, she still wrote and illustrated her first book, one that should be located and locked away if only to prevent her parents from embarrassing her terribly by showing it off alongside baby pictures. Now she spends her days writing stories that she isn't embarrassed to show off after a little bit of polishing.

3 Comments

  • Anita Young says:

    Love you’re writing style, but this story left me with so many unanswered questions. Is this going to be part of a series or larger story?

  • Eliza Jaquays says:

    Thanks for the feedback! Glad you both liked it. As of right now I don’t really have any plans to expand it, but I’ll keep it on the back burner. Who knows what will happen after it percolates for a while.

Leave a Reply to Eliza Jaquays Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.