All dead children go to haunting heaven. The luckiest go to Gashlycrumb Tinies Manor first… for therapy. Heaven can be a terrible place to endure without proper therapy.
Amy’s death did not diminish her loathing of stairs. Or of teeth, she really despised teeth. They made her think of uncannily shaped steps that had to be flossed and brushed and kept away from sweets. She waited in soothing darkness, about to start a session on stairs desensitization therapy with Mr. Slim, the Gashlycrumb Manor nanny. They had spent decades trying to exorcise Amy’s death night out of her memory. It wasn’t working.
“Every time I walk down the stairs my neck snaps, Mr. Slim. Then I’m forced to spend all night and most of the morning driving the kinks out of my cervical spine.” Amy wasn’t afraid of the actual breaking. But the constant need for stretching and the neck cracking that followed were horrid things to bring to the breakfast table. Her housemates never mentioned it—death fosters civility—but she saw mild disgust in the glare of their eyes. In those with eyeballs to glare with.
“Oh, Amy,” Mr. Slim said, with an unintended grin. Not grinning wasn’t an option for someone whose face was a bleached skull. “Everyone haunting The Manor agreed to face his or her fears.”
She stared at him, wondering if he could sniff the hypocrisy in the air. She never asked, no one ever had, but Amy still wanted to know why Mr. Slim walked around with a parasol. If he had mastered his mortal dread of sunburn and defenestration, the parasol would be gone.
“Focus on what you’ll be able to gain, Amy. Few things are as nourishing or as exhilarating for us as the trepidation of a living soul walking down the creaky stairs of our grand old house.”
Taking a deep breath she didn’t need, Amy faced the stairs. Going up was no trouble. She simply floated between the oak banisters, her slippered toes hovering a few feet above the steps. After reaching the top, she turned around towards the first-floor landing. The wretched steps dared her to walk on them. She faltered, but not for very long.
Amy closed her eyes and visualized future hauntings—her icy hands clutching your shaky ankles, her blueish lips whispering chills into the back of your neck, the fog of her spectral breath snuffing out your candlelight, her childish glee giggling nightmares into your dark.
Like it always happened, Amy’s left slipper got caught on a nail. She tumbled down the stairs, the top of her head hit the landing with a wet crack, her neck snapped. Death is repetitious. Amy stood up a bit twisted, but smiling. On the next haunting, the stairs and your fear will be all hers.
More Tales of the Gashlycrumb Tinies coming soon to my Web Serials page.
from The Gashlycrumb Tinies, by Edward Gorey