First And A Half

(This is a work of fanfiction , the Haunted Mansion, and all its characters, except for Megan, are owned by Disney Corp.)

Megan steeled herself, and started up the staircase to the second floor.

When she got to the first landing, she was thrown sideways against the wall by a rush of energy that left her chilled to the bone, and unable to breath. Ghost Host heard her fall : he rushed to her, and knealing beside her, bent her forward, patting her back.

"Breath, Megan..try," he said.

She could only gasp as she fought for air.

He moved his hand from her back to the base of her skull, lightly enfolding the area with his splayed fingers.. there was a movement, an expansive flow of energy, and Megan felt as if her head would explode.

"Stop ...you'll...kill..me !" she rasped, trying to escape his grasp.

"Just the opposite, Megan. You must trust me," he said, holding her fast.

"No..no..not like this," she finally breathed.

Several shapes appeared at the foot of the staircase, he waved them away. After a few minutes, he helped her slowly up the remaining stairs, and into his office, closing the door behind them. She slumped onto the settee, and eyed a nearby decanter.

"No, you need a stimulant," he said, handing her a cup of tea, and arranging a blanket around her. He sat down next to her with his own cup, and prepared himself for an onslaught of questions. When they weren't forthcoming, he simply started talking.

"You want to know everything, and I appreciate that, but there are times when I can't give you things that I simply don't have," he said.

Megan was trembling slightly, and staring off into space.

"Megan," he said sharply, then softening, "drink your tea."

"There are certain areas that you are to avoid at Gracey Manor. You are not to touch the hall clock, and you are never to go near the Endless Staircase."

The tea was doing its work, she was starting to pay attention. He snugged the blanket around her, and continued. "Not all of the residents of Gracey Manor are ghosts. You have just met one such person."

Megan stared at him, emptied her cup, and held it out to him..it refilled.

"When we opened our doors to mortals, there was a young man, a very enthusiastic young man, who did not follow my instructions. Before we could stop him, he ran up the Endless Staircase, and through a door.."

Here, the Ghost Host furrowed his brow, "You know, I could use a little sweetener in my tea," he said, rising and pouring some of the decanters contents into his cup.

"Something ran through me..something that took part of me with it," Megan whispered.

"The first and a half floor...that is where you were standing. That is where he now resides."

"Why hasn't anyone rescued him?" asked Megan.

"Because he doesn't exist," Ghost Host said.

"But he's a mortal," said Megan.

"Could a mortal run through you?" the ghost asked.

Megan looked at him with tired eyes. "So he's dead ."

"No, he is not.. he just isn't existent as mortals would understand it. Every day for him is the day he came to visit."

"He's stuck in a loop," Megan said quietly, "what a horrible existence."

"To your mind.." the Ghost Host said, reseating himself.

"It isn't fair," Megan whispered to her cup.

"And who is the arbiter of that?" he said, inclining his head, and meeting her eyes.

"No disrespect, Boss..but you're a bugger," said Megan.

"And you will be the life of me,Megan. You act as though I open the sweet shop door , then tell you not to touch anything. If I don't have all the answers.."

"Then I can't expect you to.." Megan sat up a bit, coming round to herself,"..ok, couldn't you at least have the decency to make something up?"

He widened his eyes. "I need more sweetener, he said, rising again to refill his cup. He took a sip, chuckling to himself. "Well, he did say you were a smartass," Hosty said under his breath.

He thought for a moment, then left the office, closing the door behind him .

After a few seconds, there was a timid tap from the other side. "Boss?' said a little voice.

"This door will remain locked for one hour. You are going to have a little lie down. Do you understand?"

"Yes, Boss," said the small voice. "Uh...Boss?

"What is it?" the Ghost Host breathed.

"Exactly who was it that called me a smartass?"

"You are not to touch that decanter. I will know if you do," said Hosty.

Silence.

"Do you understand?" he said more forcefully.

"FINE!"

He waited until he heard her throw herself onto the settee; then he walked slowly down the hallway, taking a sip now and again, while contemplating how to tell Ezra to give her a wide berth for the rest of the day.

Megan didn't go to work the next day.

Ghost Host had called her the evening of the incident , and they had had a long, unsuprizing conversation.

That next morning, Hosty made himself a cup of tea, sat down at the kitchen table, and called Megan on speakerphone. Ezra, Phineas, and Gus feigned disinterest, as they read the morning edition of the Ghastly Gazzette.

"Feeling a bit better, Megan?" Hosty asked.

"Yes, Sir," she said.

"Tell her to get her lazy butt back here," Ezra chuckled.

"At's rude," Gus growled at him.

"That's my little Wildman..you tell him, Gus," said Megan.

"She'll be back tomorrow, I expect..won't you, Megan?" said Phineas.

Silence.

"Megan?" said Ezra.

"I'm here...I..." she said.

"No, no, no, no, no, no...no, you're not," said Ezra.

"Ezra, I talked this over with Boss, " Megan said quietly.

"Honey, you had a scary situation.." Ezra said.

"I've had multiple scary situations over the years...I want my life back...I want 'normal'," she replied.

"You work HERE," said Ezra.

"Not anymore," she said. " I told Boss some of a dream I had that night. I dreamed that a treasure was found at Gracey Manor, word got out, and two men tried to burglarize the place."

"Honey, there are lots of us here to defend this place," said Ezra.

"You don't understand. I'm trying to defend my life. One of them ended up killing me."

"Honey, it was just a bad dream," said Ezra.

"Boss, I didn't tell you all of the dream," said Megan.

"Megan, you don't have to," said Ghost Host.

"I need you to do something for me...right now," she said. "Please go to the library..to the bust of Poe...see if his right ear moves."

Before anyone could speak, Ghost Host vanished through the wall. A few minutes later, he floated down the hallway, and reseated himself in the kitchen. He took a handkerchief from his pocket, and sat it on the table. "I did as you asked," he said, "When I moved the ear, the busts mouth dropped open."

"Was there something there?" asked Megan. "May I see?"

Ghost Host steadied the phone, while he unfolded the handkerchief. "Do you know Megan, why I have always told people that there is no treasure at Gracey Manor?"

He lifted a brilliant-cut diamond about the size of a half dollar, and held it up to the light.

"Because I had always believed it to be true," he said.

Megan never returned to Gracey Manor. That did not mean that she never saw the ghosts again...they were regular visitors to her place over the course of her lifetime. She got a new job as maintenance and part-time security for a large historic cemetary nearby...this was Megans version of "normal'. She lived a long, somewhat ordinary life, and one day, when she was very old, she jumped a bit too high while reaching for a bunch of sweet cherries from one of her trees, and she just kept going.