Three birds chirped away from their perch on a power-line. Sharp branches with no leaves scratched the burnt dusk sky. Marv observed this though the rusty bars on his window. A spider waited in a dusty web. A farmer, carrying two large metal canisters, walked with his dog across a bridge toward town. Marv tried to contact the dog with his mind but the dog was oblivious, sniffing the paths covered with fall leaves and hearing sounds from deep within the forest nearby. Marv glanced around his cell. The light was failing but that didn’t matter because there really was nothing to see. A toilet. A mattress full of straw on the filthy cement floor. A wall of bars that faced an empty hallway. Marv sunk away from the window. His eyes gradually adjusted to the darkening twilight. Out of the corner of his eye he thought he saw something dart passed down the hallway but he knew the jail-keeper and his dog had gone home for supper long ago. Still, Marv went over to the bars and peered down the dark hall. There appeared to be something glowing down at the other end of the empty hallway. The glowing thing appeared to move slightly back and forth. Marv was mesmerized.

Then he looked back into his cell and saw something floating on the other side. A dark ball of some kind floating about five feet in the air. It almost looked like a head, with hair sticking out. Marv glanced quickly back down the hall and the white form was coming closer. He stumbled back, slipping on the straw mattress and falling backwards until he crouched awkwardly in the corner. Now the hallway on the other side of the bars brightened with an eerie white/blue light and inside the cell the head moved laterally, a black mouth-like hole opening. Marv pulled some straw that had fallen out of the mattress and threw it in the direction of the head. Instead of disappearing like a figment of his imagination, it came closer.

It floated, huge, right in front of him, black hole eyes and gaping mouth. The nose looked like it had been chopped off. It seemed to be making a barely audible high-pitched screeching noise or was that he himself making that noise? Marv swung his arm, which moved straight through the head and burned painfully where it did so. He slunk back and cradled his burning arm. Now the glowing form moved through the bars.

Marv tried to summon all his psychic energy to banish the floating ghosts. He concentrated hard, using all his will-power. “Go away,” he hissed. The phantoms came closer. He yelled, a low, guttural sound that made his vocal chords hurt. The head and glowing, swirling form closed in on him as he pushed himself back into the corner. Soon they were upon him, burning his flesh as he screamed. His arms went up in blue flames, the room filling with acrid smoke. He fell forward on his knees, feeling his body disintegrating. Then the farmer’s head popped up and peered in through the barred window, wide-brimmed hat cocked at an angle. The farmer stared though Marv. “What’s that terrible stench?” the farmer said. The farmer glanced around the cell and then his head disappeared from the window.

There was commotion in the front of the jail and a light was turned on down the hall. The farmer’s dog arrived at the wall of bars and looked into the cell, followed by the farmer himself. He shined a heavy old flashlight into the cell and in one corner above the straw mattress saw a bloody mess. Chunks of flesh slid slowly down the wall. Nothing remotely human remained. He opened the cell door with a rusty key on a huge ring and then held his dog by the collar. The dog strained to get at the fresh meat. “Well, I’ll be…” the farmer said, shining the flashlight around. But then he turned and saw the floating head and the white glow shimmering up by the ceiling. Soon the spattered remnants of the farmer and his dog joined Marv’s remains in the cell and the two phantoms floated out of the jailhouse, down the path across the bridge towards town.

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