Book and Coin

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There was a crack in the wall. It was so thin you wouldn’t be able to slide a slip of paper through it, but it was there, and that was all Squeezes-Through-Mouse-Holes needed.

Which was good, because he was far behind schedule. It was two in the morning, and he had another three houses to visit before sunrise.

“Mouse-Holes!” someone cried out, when he was only half-way in. “Wait!”

He saw Ghostly-Chill-Down-the-Back-of-Your-Spine running through the grass towards him. That in itself was odd. You never actually saw Spines arrive somewhere. He always showed up when you weren’t looking. There wasn’t many out there who could ‘geist up on a ‘geist, but Spines could, and did.

“I can handle this,” Mouse-Holes snapped. “I don’t know why they’re suddenly piling half a dozen misplacements on me a night, but I don’t need help. This is probably another test.”

“It’s not a test,” Spines said, slightly out of breath.

“Of course it isn’t. I’ve got two more car keys and a book after this, so I don’t have time to waist with the whole ‘What test?’ stuff.” He jumped the rest of the way through the crack and into the wall. He could hear Spines trying to shout something at him, but it was unintelligible. Spines might be the best of the best, but nobody could slip through spaces like Squeezes-Through-Mouse-Holes.

The inside of the house was a mess. DVD cases were scattered across just about any flat space. The desk was buried under papers, and the small trash can nearby was overflowing.

“Knew it was a test,” Mouse-Holes said to himself. Misplacing something in a slob’s house was a piece of cake. Hiding places were everywhere, and the human would blame its own lack of organization.

The target item was a book. Reports were that the human was almost done with it, making it the perfect time for a misplacement. There weren’t any books in the living room, so Mouse-Holes headed for the bedroom.

The bedroom was no better than the living room. Clothes were scattered everywhere. The bookshelves were full of books, but there was no pattern, and many were in small piles instead of being neatly lined up. The human lay on the bed, fast asleep, the covers in a messy pile at its feet.

The book was on the nightstand. Mouse-Holes could tell the moment he saw it.

“And it’s a hardback, too. If they were trying to trick me into asking for Spines’s help, they could have at least made it trickier.” He just had to put the book in a different dust jacket, and drop it on one of the shelves. He’d drop the naked book on a different bookshelf, and it would likely be weeks before the human realized it seemed to have two copies of the same book.

He scaled the nightstand without any difficulty. He grabbed the book and lifted.

The book refused to move.

He pushed as hard as he could. It didn’t budge an inch.

“Come on,” Mouse-Holes muttered. “Nobody with bookshelves like those could love a book that much.” And the more he thought about it, the weight didn’t feel like something loved. It was more spiteful than anything else, like the book simply didn’t want to be moved.

A closer inspection revealed a silver coin sitting on top of the book, a thin chain piled next to it. That might explain it. Humans put a lot of weight on some kinds of metal, as well as coins and jewelry. This appeared to be all three.

But it didn’t explain that contrary weight he had felt.

“Worry about it later.” He had to get that coin off of the book. Maybe if he focused on just the coin, he could manage.

He grabbed on to the chain and pulled. He leaned away tugging with all his might. Slowly, bit by bit, the coin began to move. It was slow going, and he knew he wasn’t going to get to the rest of the houses on his list, but he wasn’t going to fail this test!

The coin teetered on the edge of the book, then fell. Hit hit the nighstand with a dull thud and bounced on to the carpet.

The mound of blankets at the foot of the bed rose. The white beast jumped off the bed and growled at the young poltergeist.

“Hunter?” the human said blearily. “Do you need to go out?” He, too sat up, and his eyes fell right on Mouse-Holes.

Mouse-Holes froze. As long as he wasn’t moving, no human could see him. The dog shouldn’t be able to see him, either, but you could never be sure with animals.

The human’s gaze didn’t wander though. It stared at him with sleep-filled eyes.

Something seemed to click in the human’s expression, and he suddenly shouted. He grabbed the book and swung it down at Squeezes-Through-Mouse-Holes. The poultergeist jumped off the nightstand, barely dodging six hundred pages of epic adventure and intrigue.

And landed right in front of the growling dog.

“Goddamn bugs!” the human swore, “Get it, Hunter.”

The dog didn’t attack, but it lowered its face right next to Mouse-Holes and let out a deafening bark. Poultergeists couldn’t understand animals any better than humans could, but the meaning of this bark was perfectly clear: Go away, and do not bother my master again.

Mouse-Holes nervously edged around the dog (and under the bed, where the human couldn’t try to hit him again). The great white beast tracked him. Once the path to the living room was clear, he bolted. The dog followed him, effortlessly keeping pace. He kept a steady growl going until Mouse-Holes was safely outside again.

“Thank the ghosts you’re still alive,” Spines said. “I tried to warn you. He’s been-”

“Touched,” Mouse-Holes said, “I figured that out.” He paused, then looked sheepishly at his friend. “So I guess this really wasn’t a test.”


The Missing Phone

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Squeezes-Through-Mouse-Holes eyed the cell phone nervously. He’d never been assigned a phone before. This could be a huge step in his career.

It was a small phone, barely taller than Mouse-Holes himself. He had to marvel at how the humans could build a device capable of shouting across the planet, keeping tabs on their friends, and pretty much running their entire lives, and then go and make it so small. It was almost like they wanted to lose them.

“If you’re going to do it, do it,” Ghostly-Chill-Down-the-Back-of-Your-Spine said. He stood at the edge of the nightstand, leaning against a few books stacked there. “Just don’t send it through time. It’s got a clock, you know.”

“I know that!” Mouse-Holes snapped. “I’m not some junior ‘geist, you know. I’ve been misplacing house keys and wallets for two years now.”

“Phones are different. A human like this one could go days without realizing it didn’t have its wallet. It wouldn’t notice missing keys until it was out the door. But the moment it wakes up, it’ll grab its phone.”

Mouse-Holes put a hand on the phone, then jumped back as the screen lit up at his touch.

“Jumpy much?” Spines asked, clearly suppressing a laugh.

“You’re the one going on about how important this phone is,” the Mose-Holes said. He gave his friend a meaningful stare. “This is a test, isn’t it?”

“What makes you say that?” Spines said, in a too-casual voice.

“You’re Ghostly-Chill-Down-the-Back-of-Your-Spine! You move human’s cars so they can’t find where they parked. You hid a book for three years on an alphabetized bookshelf. Right next to the copy they bought to replace it! The fact that you decided to slum along on one of my misplacement runs on the same time they assign me a phone is a bit of a giveaway.

The other poltergeist shrugged. “If you’re right and it is a test, then you’d better make that phone disappear.”

Mouse-Holes turned his back on Spines and picked up the phone, grunting with the effort. Physically speaking, the phone was incredibly light, but for poltergeists like Squeezes-Through-Mouse-Holes, the weight humans put on an object mattered far more than ounces and grams.

He glanced around, looking for the perfect place to hide it.

He had just found it, when the phone began to ring. The vibration made him bounce up and down on the nightstand. He tripped over the clock-radio’s antenna, and went sprawling to the ground. The phone flew from his hands, bouncing once before sliding across the wood. It reached the back of the nightstand and fell off, hitting the carpet below with a muffled thump.

One giant hand reached out, groping blindly at the nightstand. Mouse-Holes had to leap up onto the books to avoid getting squashed.

The human muttered something unintelligible, and was silent once more.

“Is… is it asleep?” Mouse-Holes whispered. His heart was pounding so fast, he was sure that if you put an ear to his chest, he’d sound like the vibrating phone.

Spines, on the other hand, looked almost bored. “Yep.”

Mouse-Holes peered over the edge where the phone had disappeared. The phone must have bounced underneath the nightstand. He smiled. The nightstand was pretty heavy, it’s drawers filled with all sorts of junk and knick-knacks the human couldn’t find better places for. With any luck, it would tear apart the house looking for the phone before it decided to try moving the nightstand.

His smile faltered when he turned to see Spines looking at him critically.

“I meant for that to happen,” Mouse-Holes said. Spines just continued to stare at him.

“That is… I didn’t mean to do it that way,” he clarified, “but I was going to hide it behind the nightstand. And the human’s none the wiser… So everything went according to plan… even if it didn’t go exactly according to plan.”

Spines was still silent.

“So… put that down in your report. The phone ended up where I intended it to. Make sure you note that when you file your report.”

“What report?” Spines said with an exaggerated smile.