by Joaquin Fernandez

The ghost stirred in the attic on the day they moved onto the farm, with their deep sighs and dropped boxes. Curious as always, the ghost peeked at them through the floorboards, her black mouth huge and heavy with a deep wind moan. They unpacked in separate rooms, navigating away from each other in an awkward, imperfect orbit. Usually, there was more laughter when a couple moved in.

In the night she watched the couple sleep, luminous, terrible and perfectly otherworldly, floating just a foot above them. They slept back to back, curled and somehow all alone in the bed they shared, less asleep than defeated. Each one clutched a pillow and the ghost knew they each wished it were someone else. She flickered the lights. She stole their blankets. She was no match for the amount of Ambien in their systems.

Days passed, then weeks. The couple seethed anxiety. She wept in the shower. He drank after midnight. She hiked the woods of their new property, fruitless day long treks like she was daring the trees to take her. When she snuck back home, he would exile himself to a hammock by the treeline, sipping cheap, joyless, beer with an absent gaze fixed anywhere but the house. The ghost grew restless.

Furniture moved in the night, only to be replaced in the morning amid bitter muttering, each hissing the others name, spat like a curse on the house they shared. Mirrors cracked. Faucets bled. Fresh food spoiled overnight. Only the cat noticed, eyeing the ghost with annoyance as she paced the halls, ignored and distraught. She had, in the past, been better at this.

It was their third month in the house when the ghost killed the lawn. The couple simply woke up one morning to a perfect circle of withered yellow surrounding the house. The ghost could hear them from the attic where she lay, drained by last nights mischief. Their usual strained hissing gave way to full-throated screams as they embraced the true poison of their enmity. They fought well into the night. Pots clattered, plates smashed, furniture tipped. The ghost frowned when he punched a hole into the drywall, ranting his voice raw, oblivious to the blood he was trailing. It was still her house, after all. She began to worry in earnest when the wife started throwing coffee cups at him. The ghost could feel her cupboards chip with every missed mug. An errant throw shattered the kitchen window and the ghosts heart sank. They were still screaming when she floated down, across the dead lawn and into the pale moonlight of her haunted woods.

It was nearly midnight when she discovered them. They lay there, nude and spent, each clutching the other by the light of the fireplace. Even in sleep, he held her hand. The ghost fumed at their tenderness. She studied them for a long time, cataloging the bites and scratches reconciliation had given them. She grew furious at their serenity. They lay, beautiful in their indifference as their photos fell from the wall. Glasses shattered in chipped cupboards as tears of frozen spite dripped from the ghosts eyes. She slammed translucent fists onto the hardwood floor and wailed, deep and hellish with frustration. The windows rattled. The cat ran out. Still, they slept.

The ghost shrugged, sullen and impotent. She looked into the fire and wanted to be there. She raised a hand, suddenly light with abandon and beckoned a log. It rolled to her and brought the fire with it. The ghost smiled wide at how fast it worked. In minutes, the house was oven hot with the bright hunger of flame.

Exhausted, the ghost stepped out. She sat, elated and hideous on the dead lawn while her house was consumed. Soon, there would be no place for her to haunt. As the fire progressed, turning her home to smoke, she felt her hands grow warm and pleasant. Had she been cold this whole time? She raised her palms to examine them in the moonlight, but they had already begun to fade. The ghost could feel herself pulled by the night breeze, off to wherever ghosts went next. The smoke was taking her. As it carried what was left of her, she frowned, disappointed in an absent kind of way. It was the couple. They coughed and stumbled to safety, pulling up pants as their house burned around them, cursing their luck, their farm, and most of all, one another.

Joaquin Fernandez is a recovering filmmaker and Miami native perpetually drifting west like an errant rain cloud and tinkering with his first novel. His fiction has appeared in Okay Donkey, Cotton Xenomorph, Rhythm and Bones among others. His first chapbook, A Beginners Guide, comes out this spring and he can be found on Twitter @Joaqertxranger.