They gathered ‘round the ouija board, fingers poised, nervous laughter rippling through their small group.
Anya, the de facto leader, silenced them with a sharp look.
“This is serious,” she whispered, her tone harsh as the candlelight against the dark.
The other three nodded, more solemn now, although Kita couldn’t wipe the smile entirely off her face. Anya straightened, shoulders pulled back and head bowed slightly. When she pointedly cleared her throat, the others followed suit, Kita’s head dipping lowest of all in a further attempt to stifle the giggle threatening to escape her lips.
Anya closed her eyes. “We call upon you, spirits. Come into our world and answer our questions!”
Her words faded into silence. The planchette remained still.
The attic had grown warm since they first ascended the ladder and decorated the crowded room with candles. The scents, at first pleasant, had mingled into a cloud of vanilla, lavender, and fresh linen. It had settled heavily over them, cloying and thick, until they could taste it in the back of their throats. It made the southern summer outside seem pleasant in comparison.
Trish bit her lip, but it didn’t stop her excitable titter.
“Quiet!” Anya hissed.
Rose peeked out from beneath her lashes. “Did you feel that? It moved!”
“It was Anya,” Kita said with a roll of her eyes.
“No it wasn’t!” Anya protested, still whispering. “Now shut up!” When they’d all gone quiet, she again tried to bridge the gap between the living and the dead. “Oh great spirit…”
The candles all flickered as one.
Trish gasped. Anya opened her mouth to reprimand her again, but the words stuck in the back of her throat as the planchette began to move.
“N-E-V…” They all read aloud in a single, mesmerized voice.
“Never!” Anya cried.
“Gonna,” Kita said breathlessly.
“Give,” Rose continued.
“Hey,” Trish frowned at the board, where their hands continued to zip around the letters, led by the planchette. “Wait a minute…”
“Never gonna give you up?” Anya said incredulously, lifting her fingers away. “Ok, real funny. Is that you, Kita?”
“No, I thought it was you,” Kita countered, folding her arms across her chest.
“Well it wasn’t me!” Rose was quick to add.
“Or me,” Trish said.
Their argument was cut off by the scratch of the planchette sliding, untouched, once more. They screamed, grabbing one another, but the message was brief, only three letters long.
“Lol?” Kita said slowly.
“It’s,” Rose stammered, “it’s laughing at us?”
Before any of them could answer, the planchette began moving again.
“Ok, this is boring now,” Anya read along as the words were spelled out. “Is got on?”
“G-Got?” Trish looked to Anya, eyes wide.
“I think it means Game of Thrones?” Rose offered in a squeak.
The planchette pointed to yes.
“Uh, n-no,” Kita ventured to say. “It ended this year.”
A chorus of “Ums” and “Uhs” went up, until Anya shook her head and scowled at the board. “Wait a minute! We’re the ones who are supposed to ask the questions! Who even are you?”
“What did you call me!” Anya leaned forward, hands gripping either side of the table.
“I think…I think she’s doing that Britney Spears thing,” Trish said. “Y’know, ‘it’s Britney, bitch’?”
“Aw,” Trish cupped her face with a grin.
“So you’re telling me that, instead of some hundred year old spirit, we ended up with a-a rick-rolling meme queen who never finished Game of Thrones?” Kita asked.
“It seems like it,” Rose sat back on her heels and scratched the back of her neck.
“This isn’t what we wanted,” Anya said accusingly at the board.
“And I didn’t want to die because some a-hole with a chip on his — sorry, can you spell that again? Thanks — dick shot up my work,” Kita read off. “But here we are.”
“Oh,” Anya’s face reddened slightly.
Jessica wasn’t finished. Kita continued. “Have they fixed gun laws yet?”
“Maybe we should talk about Game of Thrones instead,” Trish suggested awkwardly.
“Maybe not. Remember how it ended?”
The planchette scraped quickly back and forth.
“She wants to know what 2019 is like,” Rose shrugged uncertainly. “It’s ok, I guess.”
“Y-yeah,” Kita nodded along. “It could be worse.”
“She wants to know if we go to college,” Anya read.
“Community,” Kita and Trish said together.
“Can’t afford it,” Rose replied with a sigh.
“Just finished my first year,” Anya beamed proudly. “I have scholarships so I only have $15,000 in loans so far.”
“Hobbies?” The girls looked at one another.
“I drive an Uber. That’s kind of a hobby. So I can eat.”
“I sleep when I’m not in class or working.”
“I volunteer at a homeless shelter. We have been so busy!”
“I watch YouTube and cry.”
“What do we want to do for work?” Anya tapped her chin with her forefinger. “Hopefully something that lets me only have like, one roommate.”
“I really wanted to be a teacher, but I also like having a roof over my head, so probably not that.”
“I’m going to marry a rich dude and wait for him to die so I can get his money. I want that long term financial security, you know?”
“I’m going to sit on my kitchen floor and film myself crying for YouTube. That’s a whole thing now.”
The planchette remained still for a long time.
Anya nudged the tip of it gently. “Jessica?”
“Wait, we’re depressing you?” Kita scoffed. “But you’re dead!”
“We’ve given you a new perspective? Aw! That’s so nice!” Rose cooed.
“‘Yeah’,” Trish followed along with the planchette. “‘Maybe this isn’t so bad after all’. Oh…”
“No, like, we get it,” Anya said.
“Yeah,” the others agreed.
“She says while she’s down here, she’s going to hang out with her grandma. The retirement home is more fun. There’s bingo.”
“Come back soon!”
The planchette paused, and then, very slowly, pointed to no.