The Ectoplasmic Hatchet

As August stood outside the gates of his mansion, he felt a strange chill in the air. He found this odd, for it was halfway through the summer months, and during the journey here, the heat had been fierce. The evening sun, which was just touching the treetops, didn’t help matters.

The gates were rusty and squeaked when he opened them. The walkway leading to the door was crumbling, with several weeds sprouting from its cracks. When he arrived at the door, he found that the knob was loose in his hand. It took him a few turns to get the latch open.

The door revealed the main foyer to him. Old, tangled cobwebs hung from ceiling and the chandelier above. A cloud of dust floated out the door and traveled down the front walkway. Underneath the filth, August saw hints of a rug that was hand weaved with an intricate pattern.

As he stepped inside, the floorboards creaked under his weight. He was a big man, with broad shoulders and the strength of spending many years as a wood cutter. The heavy suitcase he carried only added to the pressure against the floor.

Left of the foyer, he found the dinning room, with its long table lined with several chairs. Beyond that was the kitchen, and beyond that was a room for the help. All of it was covered in a layer of dust, much like the foyer. He began to cough.

August placed his suitcase on the bed and went over to the window. The wood holding the glass scraped against the window frame as he raised it. Then he placed a short board underneath it, against the frame, to hold the window open.

The woodcutter breathed in the fresh air deeply. He took out a handkerchief and ran it along every surface of the room. After a few moments, the room was mostly free of dust. He decided to stay in the butler’s living quarters, until the rest of the house was clean.

So he opened his suitcase and the drawer behind him. His hatchet lay on top of his clothes, the steel blade shining in the sunlight. He carefully set it beside the suitcase on the bed and moved his belongings to the drawers. Then he went to explore the rest of the mansion.

The building had belonged to a distant cousin of his who was stabbed by a highway man. Cousin Dexter had been coming home from an extended trip to Europe when he was held up. The police didn’t arrive until the robber had gotten away with all that Dexter had brought with him.

August found it strange that Dexter had left the mansion to him. Even in its run down state, it was still worth far more than any individual share of Dexter’s money which his relatives had received.

The woodcutter couldn’t help asking himself why Dexter had given him the property. He had barely known the man; the last time they had seen each other was when they were young children playing in the dirt. His only emotion upon hearing of Dexter’s death was regret as to not spending more time with the man while he had had the chance.

Reflecting on this made August pause and lean back against the wall. He let out a sigh and stared down at the floorboards. After sometime, the woodcutter moved on.

Several more minutes passed as he searched the house. Every room looked just as old and musty as the last. He started to consider going outside to check the lawn and garden. Then he came across a room that made his eyes light up.

Bookshelves lined the walls surrounding the room, each filled with hardcover tomes. The only window had its curtains drawn, and the shelf across from it was far enough away that the direct sunlight wouldn’t reach it. August pulled back the curtains and opened the window. Unlike the other rooms, this one he stayed and wiped away the dust.

Once he’d done a little cleaning, he began searching the shelves. The first contained several histories going back to the first voyages of British colonies and the eventual founding of this country. The next held several different Bible translations, as well as other works of Christian theology.

With each book he scanned, his excitement grew and grew. His smile widened. He found volumes of poetry and short stories. There were gothic novels and mysteries, comedies and ruritanian romance, books of wonder and science fiction.

Dexter had left him a collection of books that would take him decades to study. His whole life, the woodcutter had never had enough spare money to buy a book of his own. All that he had read was either lent to him or printed in the newspaper.

He took a volume from the shelf, a telling of the mayflower’s voyage, and sat down before the window. His eyes scanned the cloth weaving of the book’s cover, studying the intricate drawing of the ship sailing under the title. When he opened the book, the edges of the pages were starting to brown, but they were sturdy enough to read without fear of tearing.

August read through several chapters of the history book, until the sun finally sank so low that he could no longer see the words. The moon still provided him enough light to move about the room. He returned the book to its place on the shelf, shut the window, and left. With a hand on the wall, he made his way back to the kitchen. There he found a candle and lit it with a match. The light helped him to see well enough to fix himself an evening supper.

But as he finished his bowl of ground beef, corn, and green beans, he heard a noise from upstairs. He put down the metal spoon and stood from his chair. The woodcutter peered out of the kitchen, but didn’t see any change in the dining room. The foyer was likewise as he had left it.

He was about to return and prepare for bed, when he noticed movement out of the corner of his eye. Up on the second story of the foyer was a puff of smoke. August found this odd, as he didn’t smell smoke in the air, and the room felt even more chilly than when he had arrived. Still, the thought of his newly inherited mansion and library destroyed in a burning blaze terrified him. So he ascended the stairs to investigate.

The second story of the foyer was a short walkway, between two doors. When August reached the top of the stairs, the smoke disappeared into the doorway to his left. He found it odd that this door had been left open, when all the others were closed. But with a shrug, he followed it.

It led him to the games room, which held a large billiards table at the center. Hung on the walls were several pool cues, with a dart board nearby. The candle light wasn’t bright enough to reach the far wall.

When he set the candle down on the pool table, the woodcutter saw that the billiards were scattered across the green. He picked up the 8 ball and tossed it in his hands, then rubbed his fingers together. The same layer of dust which covered everything wasn’t there. He set the ball back on the table with a frown.

As he stared down at the pool table in thought, an icy chill touched his spine. He shivered and let out a yell. The candle went out. His eyes darted back. Behind him floated a specter.

Fog rolled off of its weightless body. Large chains hung from its shoulders, and its clothes were tattered and ashen. Its face was mangled, like it had survived a wolf attack but just barely.

The specter reached a withered hand to August and wrapped its fingers around his neck. He suddenly felt a cold worse than the harshest blizzard. The woodcutter tried to scream, but no sound came. He couldn’t breathe.

His hand grasped a billiard ball and threw it. But the ball simply passed through the specter before him. He grabbed the specter’s hands, but his fingers slipped through them. Then the woodcutter fell to his knees.

Out of its grasp, he was finally able to breathe again, and the cold feeling had gone. The ghost reached for him again. He dove out of the way, scrambled toward the wall, and took a pool cue in his hand.

Rising, he held the cue upright like a sword. The specter floated toward him, its claws outstretched. He advanced and swung his cue at the specter’s head. The cue passed through it like it was smoke.

As the specter drew nearer, the air around August grew colder. He realized that the ghost was impervious to any mortal weapons. The specter could attack him, but he had no way to fight back.

It reached for his neck again, but he ducked down low out of the way. The woodcutter turned and ran out the door. As he descended the stairs, he still felt the chill of the ghost against him. When he reached the door, he felt another icy touch against his back. He ripped the door open without looking back and ran off.

The buildings were still alight when August walked into town. He found a local tavern and entered. Several people sat slumped over the bar, and a few were chatting among themselves.

“What’s eating you, mister?” the bartender said as August approached. “You look like you’ve seen a ghost.”

“I think I might’ve seen just that,” August said.

“You don’t say. Are you sure it wasn’t simply a stray bed sheet floating in the breeze?”

“Can bed sheets reach out and grab you?”

“No, I don’t suppose they can’t.”

“This one did! Why, it almost strangled me. Maybe it’s not a ghost, but some sort of spirit tried to kill me just now!”

Before the bartender could reply, the man sitting next to them turned on his stool. “Excuse me, sir. What’s all this talk of ghosts and spirits?” He was a thin, lanky man with wire-frame glasses.

“This sucker thinks he saw a ghost,” the bartender said.

The bespectacled man looked August up and down. “I can tell. He’s got that look about him.”

“Oh, don’t humor the man. He just needs a stiff drink, and he’ll be right as rain in the morning.”

“Yeah, I’ll bet.” His eyes shifted back to August. “What’s your name, sir?”

“It’s August. And yours is?”

“My name is Irving. Say, do you think we can talk somewhere a little more…” His eyes shifted back to the bartender. “private?”

The bartender grumbled and began wiping down the bar.

Irving led the woodcutter to a booth at the back of the bar, where they both sat down. “So where did you come across this ghost?” he asked.

“Well, my late cousin Dexter recently left me a mansion just outside of town. But when I moved into the place earlier today, a ghost appeared and tried to kill me.”

“Another haunted mansion.” Irving sighed. “I’ve seen that far too many times in my line of work. It seems like every time some wealthy businessman constructs such a place, some tragedy inevitably befalls, and it becomes haunted.”

“I’ve tried attacking the spirit, but everything seems to pass right through it. What do you think I should do?”

“My advice? I think you should burn the whole building to the ground and scatter salt across the dirt. A few months later, it should be safe to build something new on the land.”

August gasped. “Oh, no. I couldn’t burn down the mansion. That’s all I have to remember my cousin Dexter by. Besides, I’d hate to see the vast library he left me destroyed.”

“Well, if you don’t want to burn it, there is one other option. I must warn you though, it’s far more dangerous.”

“What is it? I’d do practically anything to get rid of that ghost!”

“Sure, just keep your voice down.” Irving leaned in closer. “There is one other way to destroy a ghost. If you’ve got a bladed weapon, I can enchant it with an ectoplasmic spell.”

“Would a woodcutting hatchet work?”

“Sure, the spell should work on anything with a blade, even a butter knife.”

August reached for the spot on his belt where his ax hung, but his eyes widened when his fingers passed through air. “Oh, no! I left my ax back at the mansion.”

“That’ll give you a bit of trouble. The ghost would attack us if I tried enchanting it there.”

“What are we going to do then?”

“I suppose you’ll have to return to the mansion to get it back. That is, unless you can convince the bartender to lend you a knife.”

Their eyes shifted to the bartender, who still frowned at them from across the room.

“Somehow, I don’t think he’d lend me one.” The woodcutter turned back to Irving. “Any change you’ve got one to spare.”

“Sorry, sir, but I already lent all my knives for others to hunt spirits with. None have brought them back yet.”

August swallowed. “That’s a comforting thought.”

“Tell ya what, August. I’ll go back to my place and start preparing the enchantment, while you go fetch your ax. I live by Volnor Swamp just east of town. We can meet there.”

“Works for me.” The woodcutter stood and turned to leave.

“Oh, one more thing before you go.”

August glanced back. “Yeah?”

“Watch out for the Andrew Sisters on your way through Volnor Swamp. Nasty ones, they are.”

“I’ll keep an eye out.” Then he left the tavern.

During the walk back, all he could think of the memory of the ghost he had seen. He thought about it so much that he began wondering if it had been real. Then he ran his fingers along his neck and decided that it had.

When he arrived back at the mansion a several minutes later, the wind began to blow. He held his arms against his chest and shivered. The large dead tree in the yard made it feel more like the late autumn months.

The door to the mansion was closed, but he still managed to open it again. After stepping through, he left it open, for it wouldn’t take him long to retrieve his ax. He stepped through the foyer, scanning the upper walkway for any sign of the specter, but none could be seen.

The dining room and kitchen were also the same as he had left them. When he reached the butler’s bedroom, his ax still lay on the bed where he left it. He picked it up and held it in his hands for a moment as he inspected the blade.

Behind him, there came a crash that made him turn. It sounded like a door slamming shut. He slipped his ax through the loop on his belt and ran out of the room.

In the foyer, he saw that the front door had closed. When he tried to open it, the doorknob wouldn’t turn. Then he felt a touch against his back that made him freeze.

Out of the corners of his eyes, he saw the fog rolling across the floor around him. He turned to find the specter floating behind him. It grabbed him by the neck. The woodcutter couldn’t breathe.

His hand reached for anything around him, but the doorknob was the only thing there. He tried turning it again, but it still wouldn’t move. Finally, August ripped the knob out of the door and smashed it against the ghost’s claws.

It passed through them and struck him in the neck. The blow made him slide down the door. He fell onto the front rug. The air rushed back into his lungs.

When he glanced back up, the ghost reached for him. He crawled across the floor under the spirit. There was a chill against his back as he passed through the specter. Once he was free, he got back on his feet and ran to the butler’s room.

Inside, he shut the door behind him and leaned back against it. The woodcutter sat down and gave a long sigh. A moment later, fog started to roll down the door. Above him, the ghost’s hand had passed through the wall.

It reached down at him, so he dove out of the way. When he looked back, the ghost shoved its head through the door. August’s jaw fell open.

He felt a breeze against his face and turned. The window beside him was still open. The woodcutter ran to it.

August placed a foot on the windowsill, then gripped the frame with a hand. He swung the other foot through the open window, but the ax hanging from his belt got caught. Behind him, the ghost had passed through the closed door and floated toward him.

The woodcutter pulled the ax out of his belt and threw it on the grass a few feet away. The icy hand touched his back and traveled up to the nape of his neck. His eyes went wide, and his teeth clenched together.

He slipped through the window and rolled onto the grass. Glancing back, he saw the ghost reaching for him through the window. But it didn’t pass through the wall to grab him.

With another sigh, he took his ax from the lawn and left to find Irving.

Volnor Swamp smelled of tar and toxic gas. Around him, August heard the sounds of water bubbling and frogs croaking. One of them hopped across the road, and the woodcutter was astonished to find a third eyeball adjacent to its left one. When the frog was gone, he continued down the road.

The trees loomed high above him, blocking much of the moonlight, casting the swamp into dimness. Several pools of sludge lined the road on both sides, with pieces of garbage sticking out. August saw a human skull lying in one, wearing a bronze helmet.

Several yards down the road, there stood a small hut with a firelight inside. The woodcutter increased his pace and arrived at it a few moments later. He went up to the door and knocked.

Irving opened it. “Hello there, August. You seem to have arrived without much trouble.”

“Not much trouble after I left the mansion, no.”

“Good, good! Do come inside and sit down.” He gestured for him to enter.

August stepped through the doorway and took a wooden chair by the wall. To his side was a roaring fireplace with a pot hanging over it. Irving took the large metal spoon that lay against the edge and stirred the glowing green liquid.

The magician turned back to the woodcutter. “It will be done in about twenty minutes.”

“Do you want me to do anything in the meantime?”

“No, all the items have been added to the potion. It’s just a matter of boiling down the water into a paste for your blade.”

“So how is this… paste going to damage the ghost exactly?”

“The paste itself won’t. It’s an ectoplasmic concoction made from ground up chicken bones, among other things, that will allow your blade to strike the ectoplane. This will help the ghost pass on to the afterlife.”

“You mean it’ll go to Heaven?”

“Heaven or Hell, that is for God to decide.”

“I guess I’ll let Him take care of that part then. The ghost certainly can’t stay with me.”

“Right. Though there is one thing I need to say. You must destroy this ghost in one blow.”

“Why’s that?”

“Any attack will use up the ectoplasmic power, which will turn it into ordinary swamp tar. Oh, don’t worry. The tar won’t damage your ax, but it also won’t allow you to hurt the ghost either.”

“Kill it in one strike.” He struck the palm of his hand. “Right in the neck.”

“If that’s the most easily accessible vital spot, yes. I haven’t seen this ghost, so I can’t say either way.”

“What happens if I miss? Can’t I just come back here and have you enchant my ax again?”

“I could, but it would take some time for me to gather the ingredients again. I never waste food, so it’d take about a month to gather the chicken bones. Do you have somewhere to stay during that time?”

“No, I’d have to travel back to my home on the east coast. It’d certainly make life a lot harder for the man I hired to sell the place, so I’d have to forget about coming back here.” He thought about cousin Dexter’s library, which he’d have to leave behind as well.

“Of course, this is all assuming that you came back alive from your confrontation with the ghost.”

The woodcutter stared at the floor. “Right.”

Irving went back to the pot and stirred it again. August took his ax in hand and swung it a few times, picturing the ghost before him. He tried to aim for the specter’s neck, but wasn’t sure he could strike it on point.

The wind howling at the door stole his attention.

“Oh, could you please shut the door for me?” Irving didn’t turn from stirring the pot.

“Sure thing.” August stood from his chair and went to the door. He placed a hand on the edge of the wood, but paused when he saw two figures approaching. “Looks like we have visitors.”

Irving turned around. His face was still as a statue, but his hands were shaking. Bits of green goo scattered over the floor in front of him. “The Andrew Sisters.”

“Who?” August asked.

“Three witches who live deeper in the swamp. They never like it when I perform magic spells because it takes away business from their shop. A couple years ago, they demanded that I work for them, but I refused.

“Why? I don’t see no reason not to work together if you’re both in the same line of business.”

“You don’t understand. They pervert the idea of magic from one of miracles into a self-serving ego trip. They’ve sacrificed hundreds in demonic ritual for just a minor increase in power.”

“Well, that doesn’t sound very nice.” August looked back to the two witches and frowned.

“‘Not very nice’ is putting it mildly. When they get here, they’re going to dump the ectoplasmic pot, and they’ll probably try to kidnap you. Then they’ll drain the blood from your body and use it for some bizarre summoning ritual.”

“Well, we certainly can’t let them do that, now can we?”

“‘We’ can’t, but I need to stay here with the pot. If I don’t take it off the heat when it’s ready, the potion will be ruined. You’ll have to fight them off by yourself.”

August tossed the hatched in the air and caught it. “No offense, Irving, but you don’t strike me as much of a fighting man.”

“You’re right, I’m not. That’s why I’m the one brewing potions and casting enchantments, and you’re the one fighting ghosts.”

“Yeah, I guess this’ll be good practice for fighting that specter.”

Irving nodded. “That it will.”

The woodcutter turned and left the hut, shutting the door behind him. He stood firm as the two witches approached him, wearing hooded robes. The left one lowered her hood to reveal a face of leathery skin and a head of hair that hadn’t been washed in months.

She pointed a finger at the door; a few knife scars crossed the appendage. “Step aside. We have business to attend with yon wizard.”

“Business?” the woodcutter asked. “What sort of business?”

“We’re collecting his spell-caster’s accidental insurance. If you allow us to enter, we shall spare your life when our business is done.”

“Somehow I doubt that.” August gripped his ax with both hands and held it ready to strike.

“Very well then.” The witch snapped her fingers.

The one to her right started chanting and moving her arms. Her hands began to glow green. The dirt August stood upon shifted. Vines sprung up from the soil and coiled themselves around his ankles.

He bent down and hacked at the wild plants with his ax. But whenever he cut one, two more grew in its place. He managed to free one of his feet, but in the haste to flee, he fell.

The woodcutter tried to crawl away on his back, but the vines still held his right foot. He pulled the plant about a foot out of the soil, then slammed his ax through the vines and into the ground. The weeds whipped around wildly for a moment, before withering.

When August looked up, he saw the witch coming closer to him. More roots sprung up from the ground around him. The woodcutter rolled out of the way before the weeds could grab him. He got back on his feet and held his ax to strike.

When the witch turned, he brought it down against her skull. The witch shrieked, raised her hands, and fell back on the grass. Blood leaked from the hole on her hooded robe.

Behind her, the other witch rushed toward him. He felt a tug against his shirt. The third witch lifted him off the ground and shoved him against the house. Her lips shifted into a mad grin, and her hand moved to August’s throat.

As she held him against the door by the neck, her right hand glowed purple. The woodcutter felt the energy leaking out of him. His eyes grew heavy, and it became harder for him to breathe. The world around him grew hazy and darker. He almost thought he saw fog rolling off of her, like that of the ghost.

But unlike the ghost, she was made of flesh and blood.

With the last of his strength, August lifted his ax. He sliced through the witch’s neck. Her head rolled back and landed on the ground. Then her grip loosened. He shoved her body away from him, where it collapsed on the road.

The woodcutter leaned back against the door and took several deep breaths. He let his ax fall through the loop on his belt. When Irving opened the door a moment later, August almost fell through it.

“I’m ready to enchant your ax now, August.”

“That’s just wonderful,” August said.

August sat in the wooden chair and watched as Irving held the ax above the pot. The green liquid had stiffened into a goo, which glowed brighter than it had last time he looked. Irving dipped the blade in the mixture, and it shined brightly for a moment. When he pulled the blade away, a trail of it ran down into the pot.

The green glow from the pot disappeared, and all that remained was a dark sticky paste. Once the excess goo had fallen away, Irving gave the ax back to the woodcutter.

“Thanks for your trouble, Irving.” August nodded to him as he held the ax. “I’ll be sure to come back here with a bag of silver for ya sometime tomorrow.”

“You’d be the first to return at all.” Irving smiled. “But with how you handled the Andrew Sisters a moment ago, you’ve got a better chance than most.”

August gave a dry laugh. “With what those witches took out of me, I’ll be lucky not to collapse on the way through town.

“I guess I can at least travel with you, but like you said before, I’m not much good in a fight–especially not with a ghost.”

“Let’s head out then.”

The two left the hut and went down the road. August glanced back at the two corpses they left behind, but Irving didn’t pay them any attention. The woodcutter shrugged his shoulders and put them out of his mind.

With Irving leading the way, it didn’t take them long to leave the swamp. Most of the lights in town had gone dark, for it was now late at night. The darkness made August weary. He wanted to lie down and rest until morning, but he didn’t know how long the ectoplasmic enchantment would last.

When they arrived at August’s mansion, Irving slowed his pace and scanned the building up and down. The mansion stood still, just as the woodcutter had left it, without any lights coming from inside its walls. The wind blew against the two men, causing Irving to shiver.

“I think I’ll be seeing you off here, August, if you don’t mind.”

“It’s understandable. No reason to put yourself in any more danger.”

“I guess this is where we part ways then.” He turned.

“I’ll hope to see you tomorrow, say, sometime in the afternoon perhaps?”

Irving smiled. “I hope to see you too.” Then he left.

August faced his mansion and walked up to the front door. He found that turning the doorknob didn’t allow it to open, as it was still broken. So he made his way around the house to the window he’d left open.

The woodcutter placed his hands on the windowsill and pulled himself into the room. With his feet firmly planted on the floor, he took out his ax and held it tight. He made his way through the kitchen and dining room, with a careful watch for the ghost.

In the foyer, he still had not seen any sign of the specter. Even the walkway above didn’t contain any hint of its presence. He ascended the stars to get a closer look.

The games room was also just as he’d left it, with the 8 ball and pool cue lying on the floor. The burnt out candle still rested on the billiards table, but August didn’t have a match on hand to light it. The rest of the room showed no other sign of disturbance.

For a moment, he wondered if the ghost had left his mansion, when he heard a howl behind him. He rushed out of the room onto the upper walkway of the foyer. Another cry met him outside, coming from the closed door across from him.

He went over to it and grabbed the doorknob, but a touch at his back made him pause. It felt as though someone had shoved an icicle into his spine. He bit his lower lip and turned back.

Before him floated the ghost, its hand reaching out to him. The woodcutter raised his ax, then realized he was standing too close to make a lethal strike. He didn’t want to waste his one shot at destroying the ghost, so he opened the door behind him and slipped inside the room.

The ghost followed him. The curtains of the room were drawn. The only light came from out in the foyer, which didn’t reach far beyond the doorway. His nose became irritated at all the dust floating airborne in the room.

A moment later, the ghost disappeared into the darkness. The woodcutter’s eyes darted around, but he couldn’t see any sign of it. Then he felt a chill against his neck.

He ran through the darkness until he slammed into the wall. The icy touch against his back returned. A shriek escaped his mouth.

The woodcutter walked along the wall away from the touch, until he felt a heavy cloth at his face. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw moonlight. He realized that he had found the room’s window.

August tore away the curtain. Moonlight flooded into the room, revealing the ghost before him. He retreated back a short distance and held his ax tight.

The ghost followed him, floating before the moonlight. The woodcutter focused on the specter’s neck. Resting on the ghost’s shoulder was a long chain, and he would have to avoid it. He raised his ax above his head.

The woodcutter struck the ghost square in the side of its neck. The specter howled as the blade buried itself in its body. It rushed at him.

August fell on his back, scattering more dust about the room. As he sneezed, the ghost grabbed him by the throat again. His arms scrambled to grab something. The ax handle smacked him in the face. His eyes widened.

The blade was buried still in the ghost’s neck. He didn’t dare pull it out, for then he could never destroy the ghost. But as his mind raced, he was losing air. He would have to destroy it quick, or it would kill him.

His hands wrapped tight around the ax handle. He pushed the blade deeper into the ghost’s neck. The ghost screamed and tightened its grip.

The woodcutter’s head started to spin. He kept pushing the ax further and further into it’s neck. His teeth clenched together as he strained his arms.

Finally, his blade passed through the ghost. His ax struck in the wall beside them. The ghost’s head floated away from its body. It opened its mouth to howl again, but no sound came out.

The ghost began to glow a bright blue, and it floated up toward the ceiling. The sound of a harp echoed throughout the room. Then the ghost vanished in a flash of light.

August was so astonished by the sight that he forgot that he could breathe again. He felt his eyelids get heavy, and the world around him grew darker. The woodcutter fell asleep there on the floor.

August awoke the next morning in the same room, with the ax still lodged in the wall to his side. His body ached from all the fighting the night before, and his stomach growled. He stood and fixed himself a breakfast of eggs and toast.

After finishing his morning meal, he searched all the rooms of the mansion, but the specter was no longer there. He smiled knowing that it really had passed on to the afterlife the night before. Part of him hoped that the sound of the harps meant something positive for the spirit, even if it had tried to kill him.

The woodcutter then remembered his prior obligation to visit Irving that afternoon. But morning the sun was still low in the sky. So he decided to spend a few hours in the library before paying his new friend a visit.

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