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This story contains supernatural elements (ghosts, haunting), breaking and entering, violation of personal boundaries, and some sexual content.
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About the Author: Claudie Arseneault is a French Canadian asexual writer in her late twenties, hailing from Quebec City. Her writing swings between a high fantasy saga and several solarpunk projects, the latest of which is editing Wings of Renewal: A Solarpunk Dragon Anthology.
When she’s not typing away at her keyboard, she can be found playing her favorite games, blazing through a book, or obsessing over squids and hot air balloons.
The Daisy Haunt
by Claudie Arseneault
My haunt started with a single petal. It was thick and waxy – a tiny mysterious gift in my mailbox. I didn’t think much of it. The following day I received three more. These were thin and soft, and when I crushed them they gave the scent of cardamom – a favorite of mine. I turned and tilted my head to the side, listening to the bustling neighborhood, but no one came to explain. I stood on my porch for a few minutes, confused and curious. Petals wouldn’t fall in my mailbox by themselves. Was this mysterious sender watching? I ran a hand through my small twists, suddenly self-conscious about my loose pajamas and hand-knitted slippers.
The coffee machine beeped three times from my kitchen, signaling that my cup was ready. I slunk back inside, leaving the sun’s warm caress, and picked up my favorite cup, large as a bowl. My older sister had made it two years ago, and a small Braille inscription on it read Tea > Coffee. I disagreed, which made sipping very black coffee from it way more satisfying. I clipped my sensor level to it and poured hot coffee until it buzzed, then moved to the sun-bathed kitchen table.
Another scent mingled with the coffee’s bitter aroma, stopping me short. It was more discreet, but powerful in its sweetness. Flowers. I turned toward the open windows, but no, it definitely wasn’t coming from there. Something on my table smelled like flowers, something that hadn’t been there 15 minutes ago. I swallowed hard. What was going on in my house?
Curious, I leaned over the table and reached out. My fingers brushed against soft petals, then a long stalk. This wasn’t any flower I knew of, and I tended the community’s safe garden every day, decorating the space with plants that had a subtle, non-invasive smell, trying to vary textures so that everyone could find one that’d help their anxiety. With time, I’d become a pro at identifying flowers from smell and touch.
The plant at the end of my table wasn’t one I’d encountered before. I wasn’t sure it even existed in this part of the world. Several flowers lined up the stalk at irregular intervals. Each had five long sepals growing outward, their edges a little crinkly – not unlike day lilies, but they seemed to grow all along the stalk rather than in a clutch at the end. Thoughtful, I rubbed one between my fingers.
My heart jumped when I felt the Braille.
I snatched my hands back with a loud “what the heck?” How could this be here? Had I been too tired to notice the flowers’ smell before I checked my mail? I would have sworn nothing was on my table, but lack of coffee could dull my senses. Yet even if it had been there, it wouldn’t explain the Braille petals. The city had several examples of textured signs to signal shops, resting areas, constructions, community gardens, and many others. I had yet to read Braille embossed directly on a flower’s petals, however. Especially on an unknown plant.
Was this made just for me? It had appeared on my table, after all, and there was the cardamom at the door. I rubbed my palms against my pajama pants, surprised at how sweaty they were. My heart was beating so fast already, I might have to skip coffee this morning.
With a deep breath, I spread the stalk on the table. I found the beginning of the message, dying to know but nervous to read it. What if it was super creepy? Someone had snuck into my home to put it there, after all. But whatever it was, I needed to know. My fingers found the first bump, and I started to read the string of flowers.
You have a beautiful voice.
Heat rushed to my cheeks. That was a bit creepy. I sang all the time – at home, working on the safe garden, walking around the city, even this morning while preparing coffee. But I hadn’t thought people were actively listening. Someone clearly was, and that someone loved it enough to send an anonymous message on flowers.
Kind of cute. And rather disturbing.
“Next time, maybe leave it at the door?” I called out loud.
I hoped there would be a next time, despite the strangeness. There was no denying the thrill these little messages brought.
Filled with intrigue and coffee, I grabbed my gardening tools and headed out for my day’s work. The first time a song crossed my lips, I stopped myself. Was my mysterious admirer listening right now? Where had they heard my singing first? Did it matter? I loved signing too much to worry about it all day. After a long pause – as if waiting for permission – I shrugged and burst into one of my favorite songs. My deep voice filled the gardens, rich accents lifting and falling in rhythm with the melody.
I was still humming when I arrived home that night.
I stopped in front of the door, hand on the knob. Something was... chiming? From the mailbox? Could this get any weirder? I might be better off without asking. I flipped the mailbox open and searched it. A long-leafed plant was waiting inside, like a fern but thicker. The chime stopped when I touched it. I searched for the message right away, and smiled when I found the raised dots.
I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to intrude. I’m Daisy. Would you sing for me?
A cold shiver ran down my spine. Daisy. Had she been listening this morning? In the house? Was she watching now? Was she inside? I almost didn’t want to step in. But this was my home, dammit. Whoever was behind these plants better be listening inside, because we needed to have a talk. I pushed the door, entered, and dropped my bag of tools to the ground.
“Okay, Daisy. The plants are nice, but I’m not going to sing to the weird stalker who broke into my home and watched me read her message.”
I waited, holding my breath, listening to the sounds of my house. Nothing seemed out of place. Perhaps I was wrong. Perhaps she hadn’t been there and had realized how intrusive her message had been on her own.
I jumped at the sound of the clear voice. It couldn’t be more than a few feet away, all small and high pitched, the way shy girls always sounded on TV. And she was in my home. My heart threatened to burst and a lump formed in my throat. I had to work to get any kind of cohesive answer out.
“Then stop doing it!”
A deep silence followed. I listened for her, but once again my house seemed completely still. How come I couldn’t hear her breathing? The rustle of her clothes? Her footsteps shuffling on the floor, or the old wooden boards cracking under her weight?
“Some kind of explanation would be great.”
Because if I didn’t have one in the next five seconds or so, I would call for help, and no cute flowers would stop me.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t want to freak you out!”
Well, that was a monumental failure. I still couldn’t hear anything but her voice, which sounded like it was high in the air. Did I have some sort of seven-foot-tall giant girl with the voice of a mouse in my home? I ran both hands through my hair.
“That’s not an explanation,” I said, as calm as I could – which wasn’t very calm at all.
“I know, I know. It’s just… the explanation isn’t any better.”
I took a step back, closer to my door. I’d never heard of any Daisy, and I knew almost the entire neighborhood. We all knew each other, really. I didn’t have to deal with all of this weirdness alone, and it’d reached a point where I was no longer willing to.
“Please don’t go!” The voice was much closer now, and I felt a warm breeze around me. I hadn’t heard her move at all, which made me want to run even more. “I can try to explain.”
I had my hand on the doorknob, and the goosebumps on my arms were screaming for me to go. Curiosity and a flutter at the bottom of my stomach convinced me to stay. She sounded almost as terrified as me, and I wanted to know what was going on. “I don’t feel safe. Start by moving on the other side of the table.”
“Oh. Okay.” Silence returned to the house for a few seconds, then Daisy spoke again. “Like this?”
And once again, she’d moved without a single sound. I’d done my best to listen, knowing this was the time, but there hadn’t been anything. Yet her voice came from the other side of my kitchen table now. I took a deep, shaky breath.
“How do you move around so silently?”
For a split-second I almost laughed, but her matter-of-fact tone stopped me. “You float.”
“Or I go through the floor.” Her voice lowered as she spoke, until it sounded like she was lying down. “I don’t like hovering so close to the ground, though. You can’t see anything but dust.”
I stood next to the door, my hand slipping off the doorknob, my mind reeling. What was I supposed to answer to that? It didn’t even make sense, except in a totally otherworldly way.
“I can’t hear you breathing either.”
“I don’t need to.”
Oh great. As if things weren’t weird enough already. But considering all the floating-through-floor talk, I’d walked into this one.
“So what’s the deal? Plant creature merging into wood? Ghost?”
I meant it as a joke, but considering everything Daisy had said so far, perhaps I shouldn’t have. Her subsequent silence made me regret the sarcastic suggestions. I might need to take a seat soon. Or drink more coffee.
“I’m… a bit of both?” she said.
Definitely a seat and coffee. I reached for the nearby wall, leaning against it for support. My legs weren’t feeling that good.
“If this is some kind of elaborate prank …”
“I swear, it’s not.” I could hear the pout in her voice. “I’m a ghost. A literal ghost – the kind that used to be alive and goes on haunting buildings. I used to live in an apartment above.”
Was I supposed to believe that? Yet the day had been so filled with strange events, it felt like the natural conclusion, the only explanation to it all. Not that the ‘above’ still existed. Five years ago the ceiling of this building had collapsed. Instead of rebuilding it, the community had cleared the rubbles and transformed it into an open park. It even included a vegetable garden. No one had ever mentioned a ghost. I decided to roll with it.
“Okay, and what explains the ‘plant being’ part?”
“Oh, let me show you!”
Her sudden enthusiasm surprised me. There was a warm breeze again, then a strange sound, like the crack of dry wood mixed with the wet squish of moss under your feet. She didn’t say anything after that, and I got the feeling she was waiting on my reaction.
“Are you holding something, or making it float or whatever? Because I can’t see that.”
“Oh! Right. Hum… can I move closer?”
At least she asked now. I smiled and nodded, no longer thinking about running. I still felt seriously out of my depth, but Daisy’s creepy vibes had rescinded. She was more friendly neighbor than stalker, and probably hadn’t talked to anyone in a long time. I might have forgotten a thing or two about personal space and privacy too, if I’d stayed isolated for so long. The warm breeze surrounded me again, and something solid bumped my shoulder then retreated.
“It’s right in front of you,” Daisy said. “Just reach out.”
My hand met a twisted and soft wooden branch. I ran my fingers along its shape, until I recognized a crescent moon.
“The wood’s pale,” she said. “I like moonlight and the lullabies you sometimes sing before going to bed.”
“How long have you been watching me?” She was sweet, but I couldn’t get it out of my mind that she’d been in this house without telling me. You just didn’t do these things.
“I-I haven’t been watching!” She’d swept back a little. “I just listened, I promise. I rest in the gardens’ plants, above, and your voice carried. It’s so rich, and even the songs without lyrics feel sweet and loving. It’s enough to make a girl dream.”
Heat rushed into my cheeks and I cleared my throat. Enough to make a girl dream? Me? A wide grin split my face. Her compliments were giving me goosebumps, and not from fear.
“Well, huh, I can’t say I’ve been dreaming about plant-wielding ghost girls.”
Her small giggle lifted my heart. Now that I wasn’t scared, I just wanted to know more. Twenty-four hours ago I thought ghosts were a myth, but here was one, flirting with me. Maybe. She had just called me a dream girl, right? The entire thing was surreal, but I loved it.
“Why did you wait so long, if I’m all you can think about?”
She almost choked. Daisy didn’t even need to breathe, the sound was perfectly recognizable. My grin widened. At least I wasn’t the only one off balance anymore.
“I didn’t have the courage. I never let anyone see me before.”
“Well, I’m not exactly seeing you.” I wished I could tell where she was, though. People had scents, they made noise, and they displaced air. All Daisy seemed to have was this warmer breeze following her. “Do physical objects go through you?”
“If I want.”
“You should wear beautiful flower crowns. Something I can smell, and that’ll let me know you’re here.”
“Oh! Good idea. I think I have just the thing.”
The wind lifted again, enveloping me, soft and fresh. Like clean blankets after a day on the clothesline. It came with a the sound of growing plants, but it was way more discreet this time, and I doubted I’d have noticed if I didn’t already know to watch for it.
A fresh scent filled the room – greenery after a light summer rain, flowers blooming in summer. Not any flowers, either. These had a tinge of the acrid smell I most often associated with chrysanthemums. And I knew another type of flower tightly related to chrysanthemum. I was grinning so hard my face hurt.
“Did you make yourself a crown of daisies?”
She giggled again – a sound I was quickly falling in love with. Her pure amusement shone through it.
“You did,” I said. “That’s adorable.”
“I don’t want to scare you again.”
“Then come sit and chat.”
Maybe she couldn’t really sit, but I didn’t care. I walked to my couch and collapsed in it, waiting for her to float nearby. I wanted to know more about Daisy. Who wouldn’t? There was a charming young ghost lady in my house – one with a beautiful laugh, a love for plants and late-night singing, and magical talents I envied. I had no intention of chasing her away.
Dawn rose long before my first conversation with Daisy died out. For the first time since I’d moved in the neighborhood, the thought of leaving my house to go maintain the community’s safe garden made my heart ache. Daisy had to threaten me with magical stink bombs before I rolled off the couch and prepared myself for another day out of the house. Every time I snipped a dried leaf or watered a plant, my mind went back to the girl waiting for me at home. I wondered if she could help me with this area, or if the plants growing out of her hands were just as confined to our building as she was.
She’d been haunting the building for four decades, and I wasn’t sure how she’d survived staying put for so long. I loved to wander from one community to the next, and the last two years were the first time I’d stayed put for more than a year. The itch to pack my meager personal belongings and go look for a new home had started again last month, but I’d wanted to finish planting the safe gardens. I enjoyed leaving a little bit of myself behind.
Daisy made me glad I had stayed. She made me want to call my small apartment home forever.
I thought the feeling would pass. I thought it was the fascination of meeting a ghost, the warm fuzz of having a new friend, the growing longing whenever I made her laugh.
Two weeks passed. Every morning, Daisy would drift down, the sweet scent of her flower crown mixing with the smell of strong coffee. Every evening, I’d come home and sing until she answered with a few shy back vocals and joined me. Our conversations covered just about everything: her powers, the community gardens, the neighbors, her life, mine. My desire to stay didn’t diminish, it grew.
Another desire grew, too.
Daisy’s scent filled me with an ache even her wonderful laugh couldn’t appease. I wanted more. I had no idea how possible more was, but as we sat on my couch once more, long after my clock’s robotic voice had called 5 a.m., I resolved to find out. Our conversations had turned to my elderly neighbor, who snuck into the vegetable garden at night and stole the carrots before blaming it on wild animals. Daisy was suggesting she should give the old man a scare one night, when I turned fully toward the sound of her voice.
She stopped mid-sentence. Perhaps surprised by my interruption, or by the seriousness of my tone. I hadn’t meant the latter, but my voice had come out rough.
“Have you ever thought of touching someone else?”
There was a slight pause. Even her scent seemed to diminish, as if it was holding a breath she didn’t need to take.
“I never tried.”
I pushed myself up, back to a sitting position, and leaned forward. “Do it. Try it on me. Just … touch me.”
Maybe I should’ve extended my hand, to give her somewhere easily accessible to try. I didn’t. I waited, dry throat and wild heart, tense and expectant. Of what, I wasn’t sure. What did ghosts feel like? Cold? Slimy? Would it even work?
Daisy exhaled, the only sound in the room. The warm breeze that marked her presence wrapped around me, the scent of daisies filled my nose and head and mind. I held my breath, even though my chest was already threatening to burst.
Something crisp and fresh brushed against my cheek, then another hand slipped under my tank top, alighting on my side. I gasped at the sudden jolt it sent through me. Daisy felt like aloe on sun-baked skin, like drinking cold water after chewing on mint. She was the kind of cool you sought after a stuffy summer day, and under her touch the rest of my body burned up. Her hand moved up a little, then stopped.
“Is… is it good?”
“Hell yeah.” My mind spun, caught in thoughts of her hands gliding against my breast, of her lips on mine. I struggled for a more comprehensive answer. “It’s soft and fresh and delicate. Strange, but perfect. Kind of like you.”
She giggled, and her thumb caressed my skin. “You’re so warm…”
The intense sadness in her voice caught me off guard. I straightened up a little, frowning. “Is something wrong?”
“No. I mean, yeah, a little.” I gave Daisy time to choose her words. Something was obviously on her mind. “It’s just been a really long time since I did anything like this, and I was with a boy at the time, and…”
She might have shrugged then. I reached out and was relieved when my fingers wrapped around a cool arm. It wasn’t skin – more like a supple invisible force with the same refreshing sensation as her hands – but I knew it was her.
“It’s okay, Daisy. We’re not in any hurry.” A small laugh escaped my lips as I ran my fingers over the curve of her forearm. “Besides, the whole ghost element is quite new to me, too. We’ll figure it out.”
I wasn’t going anywhere. I knew that with absolute certainty now. No amount of wanderlust could pull me away from Daisy.
“Promise me one thing,” I said. “Don’t ever stop haunting me.”
She laughed, and for a few glorious seconds her fresh lips pressed against mine, and intense energy coursed through my body. As much as I wanted more, I let Daisy pull away without a word. She stayed close, coolness radiating from her, contrasting with the warm breeze that always marked her presence.
The wind picked up a brief instant, and I heard plants growing again. Seconds later flowers dropped on my head. More daisies. I thought it’d stop after a few, but she kept creating them until a river of flowers was spilling around me. I laughed, trying to bat them away.
“I’ll be cleaning them up for days!”
She kept the shower going a little longer, her giggles mixing with my laughter. “I’m haunting you!”
Daisy created a large burst of flowers, and they slowly settled as my amusement died down. They tickled my arms and neck, and I brushed a few away.
“Spooky,” I said, “but you still haven’t promised.”
“I promise. There’s no building I’d rather be in. I want to hear you laugh and sing every single day.” Her cool hands found mine. “You’re right, we’ve got a lot of time ahead of us.”
Before I could answer, the coffee machine beeped loudly, three times – the call of my morning routine. I hadn’t even noticed the scent under all the daisies and turned toward the kitchen with a pout.
“There is no shortage of mornings waiting for us.”
I rose, daisies falling off my shoulders as I crushed others on the ground. My entire world was made of them: they stuck in my hair, slipped in my clothes, tickled my feet. And the one that mattered the most sat on the couch behind me, laughing as I tried to shake all the flowers off me. I couldn’t remember being happier.