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Authors: Kenneth Oppel

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BOOK: A Bad Case of Ghosts
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Chapter 4
A Bad Case of Ghosts

“I’ve made some adjustments to the ghostometer,” Tina told Giles. “I believe I’ve perfected it.”

“She was up all last night working on it,” said Kevin proudly. “She had to take apart the stereo for spare parts.”

“Mom and Dad don’t know yet,” said Tina.

“Oh yes they do,” said Kevin. “Mom tried to play one of her Beatles CDs and it sounded like chipmunks.”

“It can’t be helped,” said Tina. “This is important.”

“Well, I hope you can figure this one out,” said Giles, who’d been waiting for them outside in the front yard. “I was scared half to death.”

“Oh boy!” said Kevin. “Ghosts!”

“Kevin,” said Tina, “shut up. Now, Barnes, where did you see the ghosts?”

“You can call me Giles, you know.”

“I prefer Barnes. Now, about the ghosts?”

“Well, I didn’t exactly
them,” Giles said. “I
them. It was this weird fluttering sound, like birds’ wings. And then I heard a voice, a woman’s voice, say Hello.”

“A voice said Hello?” Kevin asked. “That’s all?”


“Oh,” said Kevin disappointedly. “Doesn’t sound very ghostly to me. No skeletons? No people without heads? No gushing—”

“Where did you hear these sounds?” Tina interrupted, giving her brother a withering look.

“In my bedroom.” He told them how he’d heard the same sort of noise the very first night he’d arrived.

“Let us begin our investigation there then,” said Tina. “Lead the way.”

Upstairs, they all stood very still and listened carefully.

“I don’t hear a thing,” said Kevin. “Are you sure you aren’t making this up?”

“It was clear as anything!” Giles protested. “I heard it. It’s not my fault if it’s gone away now!”

“I am now going to take some readings with the ghostometer,” Tina announced importantly.

She pulled the headphones over her ears and twirled some knobs. She listened intently for almost a minute, making little noises.

“Ahhhhh,” she said, “hmmmmm…uh-huh…ohhhhh.”

She took off the headphones and scribbled into a notebook.

“Well?” Giles demanded.

“Very interesting,” said Tina.

“Aren’t you going to tell us what you heard?” Kevin said.


“Why not?” blustered Giles.

“I need more information. It would be unprofessional of me to offer an analysis at this early stage.”

Tina put the headphones back on and walked slowly around the room.

“She’s awfully serious,” Giles whispered to Kevin.

“She’s a genius,” Kevin whispered back. “Geniuses are supposed to be serious. It’s a serious business. I’m serious sometimes, too, but since I’m only a little bit of a genius, I don’t have to be as serious as Tina.”

“I still think that thing looks like a toaster,” Giles muttered, nodding at the ghostometer. “I bet it doesn’t even work.”

“Fascinating,” Tina said to herself, jotting more notes into the book.

“Can we listen now?” Kevin inquired.


“Why not?” Giles demanded.

But Tina didn’t say anything. It was as if she were in a trance. Finally she pulled off her headphones and held them out to Kevin and Giles without saying a word. They clunked heads and shared the headphones.

Giles gasped. It wasn’t just a simple fluttering of wings he heard this time, it was a
of bird sounds, chirping and whistling, cooing and squawking, hooting and warbling! And on top of all that was the clatter of beating wings! It was deafening. There must have been dozens of birds making all that racket!

Giles yanked off the headphones.

“Wow!” said Kevin.

“You mean all that’s coming from my room!” Giles demanded, looking at Tina.

She was sitting silently on the edge of the bed, her hands folded neatly in her lap.

“Do you believe in ghosts?” she asked.

“I…I don’t know,” Giles stammered. “My mother says they don’t exist. But my Aunt Lillian believes in them. She says that—”

“Your room is
Barnes,” Tina said simply. “The readings on my ghostometer are unmistakable. You’ve got ghosts. You’ve got ghosts badly. It’s the worst case of ghosts I’ve ever seen.”

“It’s also the
case of ghosts I’ve ever seen,” Kevin added.

“But who’s ever heard of ghost
!” Giles blustered. “I mean—”

But he stopped suddenly. He stared. He pointed.

In the far corner of the room, on top of his bookshelves, was a large parrot. But it wasn’t a real parrot. It was shimmering like a heat mirage. It was all silver and glittering, as if someone had drawn it in the air with sparklers. It strutted regally back and forth across the shelf, passing right through some of Giles’s model planes.

Giles looked over at Tina, to make sure she was seeing it, too. She must have been. Her eyes were wide open. Kevin saw it, too. His mouth was wide open, but no words were coming out.

“It’s…a ghost bird,” Giles said.

“A ghost parrot to be precise,” said Tina.

“Hello!” said the parrot in a woman’s voice. “Hello, hello!”

“Ah-ha!” said Tina. “That explains the voice you heard.”

And then, before Giles had time to speak, his entire bedroom was suddenly filled with ghost birds, all gleaming white, perched on the furniture, scratching on the desk, strutting around on the window sill; there were birds chirping and singing and flying through the air. One swooped low towards Giles and he ducked, covering his head with his hands. The ghost bird soared right through him, but Giles didn’t feel a thing, except a little buzz of static electricity in his head.

“The ghostometer readings are higher than ever before!” shouted Tina above the din.

“This is crazy!” shouted Giles. “My room is filled with ghost birds!”

“Can we go home now?” Kevin asked in a quavering voice.

Just as quickly as they’d come, all the ghost birds suddenly disappeared, and Giles’s bedroom was back to normal. Except for a single silvery feather which floated slowly to the floor and stayed there for a moment before dissolving into empty air.

“It’s extraordinary,” said Tina. “I believe I counted over fifty different specimens.”

“You actually counted them?” said Kevin in disbelief. “Weren’t you afraid?”

“Fear is unscientific,” said Tina.

“That’s what my mother would say,” said Giles miserably. “What am I going to tell my parents! They won’t believe me. They’ll think I’ve flipped!”

“Maybe you’d better let me have a chat with them,” said Tina solemnly. “They might listen to me.”

Chapter 5
On the Case

“It’s a pleasure to make your acquaintance, Mr and Mrs Barnes,” said Tina Quark.

“Thank you, Tina,” said Giles’s father.

Giles saw that his parents were both smiling a little. They couldn’t believe that such a tiny girl could be so serious. When Mr and Mrs Barnes had come home from shopping, Tina had asked them to please sit down at the dining room table.

“Now then,” said Tina. “I realize that what I am going to tell you may be difficult to believe. But please try to keep an open mind. I have recently made an examination of your house and I’ve come to the conclusion that you have ghosts.”

“I see,” said Mr Barnes. “Would anyone like a drink?”

“How have you found this out, Tina?” Mrs Barnes asked.

“With the ghostometer,” Kevin blurted out.

Tina shot her younger brother an incinerating glare. “Kevin, please, allow me to do the explaining here.”

She lifted the ghostometer onto the table and showed it to Giles’s parents.

“Mr and Mrs Barnes, this is a ghostometer, a personal invention of mine. It measures the amount of ghost activity which human beings can’t normally detect.”

“It looks like a toaster,” mumbled Mr Barnes.

Tina pretended she didn’t hear that.

“With this device I have discovered a very high concentration of ghost activity in your son’s bedroom.”

“It’s true,” Giles told his parents. “We all saw them when you and Mom were out. We saw ghosts!”

“Now look,” said Mrs Barnes, getting into her stern professor mood, “I’m a woman of science myself, Tina, and I must tell you that what you’re saying is preposterous, not to mention totally unscientific…”

As Mrs Barnes was speaking, Giles caught sight of something moving. He squinted. One of the ghost birds
was swooping into the dining room from the hallway. It was the same regal parrot which Giles had seen in his bedroom.

“Um, Mom,” said Giles, “there’s—”

“Giles, please, let me finish,” said his mother. “Now, never have I read a scientific account of ghosts which I have found satisfactory…”

The ghost parrot fluttered through the room and perched on Mrs Barnes’s shoulder. Giles saw it. So did Kevin and Tina. So did Mr Barnes. Mrs Barnes, however, was too busy talking to take notice.

“Um, Mom,” said Giles again.

“Giles, now let me—
!” screamed Mrs Barnes, finally seeing the bird on her shoulder. “Where the heck did that come from?”

“It’s what I’ve been trying to tell you, Mrs Barnes,” said Tina patiently. “You’ve got a bad case of ghosts—ghost birds to be precise.”

Mrs Barnes was trying to shoo the ghost bird off her shoulder, but her hand just went right through with a little buzzing sound.

“Well, Liz,” said Mr Barnes to his wife in a dazed voice, “it looks like Aunt Lillian was right.”

“This is some kind of trick, isn’t it!” Mrs Barnes exclaimed. “All right, very funny, game’s over.”

“Mom, it’s a real ghost!” Giles insisted. “There’s dozens of them in my room. This house is haunted!”

Mrs Barnes had her neck craned as far away from her shoulder as possible. She was staring into the eyes of the ghost bird, and the ghost bird was staring right back.

“Hello, hello!” said the parrot.

“There seems to be a parrot on my shoulder,” she mumbled to herself.

“Where do they come from?” Mr Barnes asked.

“Impossible to say,” Tina replied calmly. “I’d have to research such a question very thoroughly before I could supply you with an adequate answer.”

“Well, look,” said Mr Barnes. “This is completely unacceptable. We can’t have ghost birds flying around our house. How can we get rid of them?”

“Another very good question, Mr Barnes,” said Tina. “Let me assure you that we’ll get to work on it right away. In the meantime, I don’t think there’s any danger.”

“Easy for you to say!” said Giles. “You don’t have to
sleep in my room! It’s like an airport in there, all those birds swooping around my head!”

“Don’t worry, we’ll figure it out,” said Kevin confidently. “After all, we are geniuses.”

Chapter 6
Ghost Overload

“There’s birds in the bathroom now!” blustered Mrs Barnes.

“Just try to ignore them,” Mr Barnes suggested. “They’re perfectly harmless.”

“There’s no privacy in this house any more!” Mrs Barnes grumbled.

Giles couldn’t help smiling. In the past two days, the ghost birds had taken over the entire house. They appeared and vanished without warning, sometimes one or two, sometimes dozens at a time. Most of them did seem to prefer Giles’s bedroom, but it was not at all uncommon for a ghost cockatoo or a ghost budgie to turn up in the living room and roost on the television, or perch on a towel rack in the bathroom.

The regal ghost parrot seemed to have taken a special liking to Giles’s mother and would often settle affectionately on her shoulder during meals, or as she walked around the house.

“What a ridiculous creature,” Mrs Barnes would mutter, trying to shoo it away without success. “Won’t this thing leave me alone!”

Giles’s mother was not taking the ghostly invasion well at all. Giles knew that it was very hard for his scientific mother to admit that there really were ghosts living in their house and nibbling at her earlobes.

“We’re not telling anyone about this,” she instructed them. “I’d be the laughing stock of the mathematics department. Ghost birds! Hah!”

“Can’t we even tell Aunt Lillian?” Giles wanted to know. “She’d be thrilled to see ghost birds.”

“Absolutely not,” said Mrs Barnes. “She’d tell everyone she knew. She’d call the papers. We’d be on the nine o’clock news. No. We tell no one.”

As for Giles, he found he was gradually getting used to the ghost birds. He thought they were sort of beautiful, these sleek, silvery things, glittering with mysterious
light. A few days later he discovered that you could make them disappear by blowing on them. They would flicker like a candle flame and then dissolve. But it was only temporary and after a few minutes, they would come back.

Often he could ignore the ghost birds altogether, but that wasn’t always possible when they filled his room as if it were some giant cage, shrieking and chirping and beating their wings. He’d started wearing ear-plugs in bed at night so he wouldn’t be woken up by their early morning racket.

“When are we going to get rid of these things?” his mother roared that evening at the dinner table, puffing at every ghost bird that fluttered into view.

“Tina and Kevin are working on something,” Giles said.

geniuses,” Mr Barnes reminded his wife.

“Geniuses, right!” said Giles’s mother. “I just hope they manage to clear these birds out of our house before I go crazy!”

Later that evening, Giles was sitting up in bed, trying to read. A finch flew over and perched on the top of his book. Giles blew on it and it disappeared. He read
another sentence and then an African swallow dive-bombed him.

“Hello, hello!” said the parrot, who suddenly decided to put in an appearance.

Giles lay his book down with a sigh. His room was overrun once again. Where did they all come from? He hoped that Kevin and Tina cooked up something fast. He wasn’t sure how much more of this he could take!

All at once, Giles was aware of something else in the room with him.

Not a bird this time.

It was a person.

He turned his head to look. In the far corner of the room was an elderly woman. But, of course, she wasn’t really a woman at all. She was all crackling light and electricity, just like the birds!

Giles sat rigidly in bed, watching her. It was one thing to see ghost birds, quite another to see the ghost of a real human being! Giles was certain the hair on his head was slowly rising. Was this the crazy lady Kevin had talked about?

But the ghost woman didn’t take any notice of him at all. She moved across the room, half walking, half gliding. She was looking carefully at the birds, stroking their plumage. She seemed upset, and Giles immediately felt sorry for her. She went from bird to bird, gazing at each one anxiously.

Then she turned and looked straight at Giles.

Giles felt his whole body go limp with fear. What’s she going to do now? Giles wondered. All sorts of gory images flashed before his mind’s eye. But the ghost woman just shook her head sadly. She had a kind face, with plenty of wrinkles, and silvery hair gathered on top of her head in a bun.

She raised a ghostly silver hand and pointed to the ceiling of Giles’s bedroom. Then, taking one last look at the birds, she slowly faded from view until there was nothing left of her except a sprinkling of light hanging in the air, and that too disappeared after a moment.

First ghost birds, Giles thought, now a ghost woman.

What did it all mean?

BOOK: A Bad Case of Ghosts
9.75Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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