Chapter 8 Page 30
Posted June 22, 2023 at 07:00 pm

Hey all! Paranatural will be on break until July 13th while I visit my family on the east coast! Take care until then, and thanks for reading!



        After the morning he’d had, Maxwell Puckett wanted little more than to be left alone to rest. His dad was busy canceling his credit cards, having never found his wallet, and with Zoey downstairs charming Corner Store customers with how adorably she was defying child labor legislation, Max was certain he’d earned solitude at last. What he’d forgotten, brand new spectral that he was, was just how many roommates he’d accrued.

        Ka-shwing! That was the sort of cool sound clashing weapons might have made, were they not a toilet plunger and a cutlass made from gas. PJ had asked Max to spar with him—hero training, as he’d called it, beaming brightly—but, surprising both of them, Lefty had stepped up to bat when Max refused the much more literal request to do the same. Now Max’s tool laid against the far wall while PJ pursued the severed hand around the room, squeaking in frustration when his every thrusting plunge was deftly parried

        Max had been wary of keeping his haunted baseball bat close by lately, ever since his last encounter with his spirit. For all he knew, Scrapdragon was perfectly capable of pulling him into a trance while he was sleeping and chomping off his head; the grudge seemed animal and volatile enough to bite the hand that fed it spectral energy. Luckily, and much to his chagrin, there was no chance that Max would be caught napping this fine Mayview evening... not with the one-sided duel raging all around the room, nor with the eyes of the strange little quivering man an inch away fixed wide upon him.

        “Hey,” groaned Max, staring back at Hissing Pete. The fearful spirit was perched on his chest like an imp in a Renaissance painting’s ode to sleep paralysis, and had been for about an hour now. “How come Hissin’ Pete doesn’t hiss about climate change?” Max turned to look at PJ. “Is that danger not pressing enough for him? Is he just ignorant? Let’s unpack this. What’s his deal?”

        “Um!” PJ flinched at a feint, masterfully converting the maneuver into an unexpected extra hit in Lefty’s combo. “Ow! Um! Pete’s superpower’s just for sensing scary critters and such, I think! He’d have to wait for the shake before an earthquake had him shook, just like the rest of us! Hiiii-yah!” PJ accidentally swung his plunger into a state of perfect suction on the wall. “Eep!” Lefty battered him with bonks while the pajama-clad ghost struggled with all his meager might to pull his weapon free.

        “I was gonna say,” droned Max, idly reaching up and stretching Hissing Pete’s cheeks. The spirit felt like wax paper and smelled like day-old salad. “We would’ve had a little naked Nostradamus on our hands. Excuse me, hand

        Max made a mock apologetic gesture towards Lefty, who countered with a gesture of his own. Then the gloved ghost jabbed his sole raised finger towards Max’s cast, as if to say “You’re one to talk.”

        “Wow, catty! PJ, plunge this guy already. I think he’s favoring his left—make use of that, okay?” Max shot Lefty a sneering smirk, which the ghost waved away dismissively, manifesting a new blade of spectral energy and diving back into the duel.

        Lefty was a handful, Max thought, pun oh-so-intended. They’d been feuding somewhat from the moment they’d first met, and Lefty had only gotten more ornery and protective of poor PJ since the plucky ghost had followed Max to school. Max couldn’t imagine what Lefty’s problem was, and, frankly, didn’t care. For a moment, he’d briefly tried to recollect how Isabel had introduced that Spectral Fist stuff back at school—wasn’t making swords from ghost gas, like, her family’s invention?—but he himself had learned the messy basics well enough, and so Lefty’s spectral cutlass didn’t strike him as that strange.

        Max soon found himself distracted from such thoughts by the bioluminescent sacks on Hissing Pete’s weird head, which made a funny sloshing sound each time he squeezed them. “...Man,” Max said. “Kinda weird you gave this freak the same name as my dad.”

        Now it was PJ who was stuck against the wall, pinned down by a rain of spectral slashes. A certain doctopus, who had detached from Max’s arm, was hovering hungrily around the duel, waiting for an opening to snack on bumps and bruises

        “H-how could I have known that, Max??” PJ peeped, dodging between close calls. “That was an afterlifetime before you all showed up! I’m not a Nos... Nost... Knowsterdamus—I can’t see the future either!” A mighty Lefty limit break helped prove as much, launching the puny ghost across the room.

        Max scratched Pete’s trembling chin and stared off without answering. He hadn’t told PJ about the sphinx prophecy yet—he’d been so happy lately. Silly thoughts like wondering if ol’ Hissin’ Pete could help predict town-wide disaster... they were better off kept safely in his head.

        “...So you just found this guy haunting the store?” Max asked, not sounding particularly curious. He lifted Hissing Pete up like a very heavy, very sweaty cat

        PJ’s answer was muffled somewhat by his plunger and by PK, both now vacuum-sealed upon his face in the aftermath of his defeat. “No, Lefty brought him here. I think to be my pet ’cause I was lonely.”

        “Parent of the year,” Max said sarcastically.

        PJ nodded. His plunger’s handle bobbed like a hummingbird’s beak. “Lefty’s been my helping hand forever. He brought me here, too—well, we’ve lived lots of places. Er... been dead in them, I guess.”

        “So wait... you mean you didn’t die here?”

        Pop! PJ pulled the plunger free. “Oh! Oh, no, Mr. Max. I died in my house, when it exploded!”

        Max was familiar with the way adults offered sympathies for the deceased, but broad platitudes seemed lacking when one spoke without a séance to a boy who had blown up. “Bummer,” his brain blundered forth. “You look good, though. For that. You know. Intact.” Max dug deeper so as to hide in the hole he’d created. “...Lefty was holding the fireworks, wasn’t he?”

        “Ah,” uttered PJ, floating back to his feet (or lack thereof) with Lefty’s help. “It was nothing quite so festive, I’m afraid. And you should be afraid, too, Max. Meteors could strike at any time.”

        Max’s eyes struggled to squint and widen simultaneously. “You were... hit by a meteor?”

        PJ nodded gravely. “Oh, yes, sir. I have pondered it most ardently. Nothing else explains it like the sudden wrath of space.” He glanced towards the glove that was presently dusting him off and fussing with his clothes. “Ah, but I don’t rightly know how Lefty died. We were both ghosts when we met. I was floating in place underground for a long time first, ’cause I thought the darkness I woke up in was the void of purgatory. Lefty fished me out by chance, I’m pretty sure, and showed me I could fly around and stuff.”

        Max and Hissing Pete shared a glance acknowledging the burden of this topic’s sheer morbidity.

        “We didn’t stick around what was left of my house for very long. It was all overgrown and spooky by then, so...”

        “Right,” Max mumbled. “And what kind of ghost would haunt a place like that?”

        “Exactly, Mr. Max! Well, we don’t stay anywhere for too long, really. Lefty gets restless.” PJ fixed his wide eyes on the hand. “I’m sure we’ll stay here, though, now that we’ve met you, Max! Lefty never let me do dangerous stuff like sword-fighting before... I bet he wants me to be a superhero like you, too!”

        Lefty turned doubtfully towards Max, a motion one could easily imagine that a hand might make inside Kermit the Frog

        Max smirked. “I don’t hear him saying no.”