The exorcist hung up on me once I’d explained that I didn’t need to evict a ghost in a machine, but rather to expel the ghost in my spleen. Unfortunately, the possessed body part wasn’t a popular one. Not a heart nor a hand. Not a larynx nor a leg.
The signs were subtle—no rattling chains, or cold spots, or spontaneous combustion. I didn’t speak in tongues, or float, or dream of slaughtering my siblings. Instead, something inside me released a phantom gurgle, and my will to leave the bed fled. No pill, perk, or prize could stop the sadness sinking me ever deeper into despair.
An internet rabbit hole brought me to the belief systems of long-dead doctors concerning humours—body fluids that affected health, personality, and mental disposition. Surely some sneaky specter converted my spleen into a merriment-murdering black bile factory.
With the exorcist a bust, I sought home remedies to reduce black bile and bring my body into balance. I guzzled green tea and cranberry juice. Avoided alcohol, processed foods, caffeine. I burned sage, filled my humidifier with holy water, and religiously followed the directions on the super-sized container of Spleen Salvation Cleanse.
The ghost clung tight. My insides liquified, and I seemed to spew corruption from every orifice. I swore and begged and thrashed. I convulsed. I cried. And after sixteen hours of torment, I was certain I’d died. Maybe I hallucinated or went a bit mad. But I swear I spied the wraith—a flimsy wisp of white floating like dandelion fluff.
Sweaty and covered in crud, I dragged the bag of bones my skin suit held to the shower. Neither the water beating my body nor the citrus scent of soap made me feel better. In a fit of pique, I banished every tea leaf, every sage stick, every drop of blessed water, every granule of spleen cleanse.
The ghost was gone, along with all signs of our struggle, yet I remained a wreck. Despite my exhaustion, I googled the other cardinal humours and discovered more ghosts to blame for my shortcomings.
My out-of-control internet shopping and late-night snacking habits signified an imbalance of blood due to a liver spirit. Sloth-like sluggishness spoke to a phantom kicking up a plethora of phlegm in my lungs. The anger and aggression that sparked at the simplest slight meant a ghoul in my gallbladder doggy paddled in a pool of yellow bile.
Relieved, I slouched on the couch and chain smoked. In between puffs, I chowed on cheese, sucked down shots of booze, binge-bought QVC bling, and social media stalked every single ex. Soon, my menthol-scented smoke rings summoned a brand-new batch of specters.
I drunk dialed the exorcist.
“Got more ghosts,” I slurred. “Having a haunted house party, and you’re not invited.”
This time, I hung up on him.
Born under the sun sign of Leo, Serena Jayne is naturally a cat person. Her flash fiction has appeared in The Arcanist, Ghost Parachute, Gone Lawn, Lost Balloon, Shotgun Honey, and other publications. Her short story collection, Necessary Evils, was published by Unnerving Books. She tweets @SJ_Writer.