Thomas McMurphy was like any other ten-year-old boy except for the fact that he was a ghost. When he was alive, no one told him that when he died all of his memories would be erased. (Then again, how could anyone have known?) How he died, when he died, who his parents were... he had no idea. All he remembered was his name and age.
Thomas wasn't interested in using his supernatural powers for evil or anything. In fact, he was a pretty nice guy, not that anyone would have been around him long enough to know that. He was pretty far removed from humans. His home was an abandoned house on the edge of a small town in Virginia. Being a ghost, it wasn't easy going through the process of getting a realtor, going to open houses, and making a down payment. He took what he could get. Although the house may have been abandoned, it sure didn't look it: The siding wasn't splintered. The windows weren't smashed in. The grass wasn't growing sour. The trees weren't black, barren, or bent into menacing shapes. Thomas would never let it fall into such disarray. He did his best to sweep the floors every Sunday, dust every other day, and religiously tended to a small tomato garden that he had in his backyard. (The garden was there when he moved in and he had been caring for it ever since.) He kept the house in tip-top shape, not only for himself —why humans thought any ghost, good or evil, would want to live in a crummy environment was beyond him — but for any potential visitors.
Every morning when Thomas woke up, the first thing he did was make the bed. He couldn't have people thinking he was lazy or sloppy. It might scare them off. From there, he looked around the small space to assess what needed to be tidied and what was presentable enough. Some days he would straighten out the objects on the crooked coffee table. Other days he would fluff the pillows and beat the curtains. And once in a while, he would rearrange his bookshelf, either in order of color, author, or genre. Sometimes all three. Someone would notice one day.
After he was satisfied with his clean-up job, he would spend the rest of his day floating around his hollow home, waiting for people to visit him. He even left the door partially open as a not-so-subtle way of letting people know that he welcomed them into his home. Round and round he soared, this being a similar activity to a human twirling in a swivel chair. The excitement didn't last long, though, and he would carefully scan all the items and appliances in his house (which wasn't very much) and inspect them one by one. Maybe the curtains weren't opened wide enough. Maybe he missed a speck of dirt on the floor that he thought he swept up. Maybe the coaster on the coffee table was turned two degrees too much.
More often than not, Thomas would end the day the way he spent the entirety of it: alone. When the clock struck six o'clock p.m., he would slowly spiral down into his bed. He would tuck himself in (the old house lacked proper insulation) and shivered under the chilly sheets as he looked up at the ceiling where the night sky was painted in a childish style. He would smile as he watched the stars dance around, hand in hand, and see the image making its way into his dreams as he drifted off to sleep.
There were some rare occasions, however, when Thomas did receive visitors. Usually, they were kids around his age, eager to explore the infamous abandoned house at the edge of town. As soon as he heard the snickering sounds of naive children and their half excited, half frightened exclamations of "no, you go first," he would eagerly make his way down to the door and open it a little wider so that they knew to come inside. For some reason, this would only make his visitors more apprehensive about entering, but with cautious steps, they would make their way into the house anyway (unless they ran away screaming, in which case Thomas would wonder what he could have done to make them stay). As they walked through the door, Thomas would close it behind them. The house was already breezy enough from the lack of proper insulation. Plus he didn't want any bugs or debris coming in.
"Hi! My name is Thomas. I'm so glad to have you over." the little ghost boy would say once the kids had a good look around the house.
"W-who s-s-said that?" the kids would attempt to ask as confidently as possible.
"W-where are y-y-you?" the kids would say in a squeak.
"I'm right here, silly," Thomas would say as he tapped them on the shoulder. The kids would turn around and when they realized no one was there, they would run out of the house screaming. Thomas would watch as they ran down the street, stumbling over their feet. He wondered if there would ever be a day when they didn't run away.
Occasionally there were some other visitors besides young kids. Sometimes teenagers carrying wooden boards would come late at night as Thomas was getting ready to go to sleep. He thought that the game they were playing was rather confusing. There was no start or no end on the board and no pieces to indicate a player's position. The only things on the surface were letters, numbers, and a small planchette that each player put his or her hand on.
Sometimes women in ornate robes and decorative headdresses came into the house with people dressed in "normal" clothing. The woman would sit on the ground and take out a clear glass ball, waving her hands around it as she chanted incoherent phrases in an attempted to contact the deceased.
At first, Thomas thought that maybe his luck would be better with people who were older. However, he quickly learned that that was not the case as he stood in front of his door, dumbfounded, staring at the backs of his guests while they stumbled down the street.
With every failed encounter, Thomas' hope for a friend diminished more and more until the flame was completely snuffed out. One day, after scaring off a little girl who had wandered onto his front lawn to retrieve a runaway ball, he decided that enough was enough. He locked his front door. He shut his curtains. He stopped rearranging the books on his bookshelf (no one was ever going to notice), and let the tomatoes in his garden shrivel up and fall to onto the crusted soil.
Thomas stayed in his house three hundred and sixty-four days out of the year. There was no reason to leave, after all. There was only one day when he left his house. Thomas wasn't sure what the exact day was, he just knew when it came by looking out his window. The little ghost boy would make his way to his closet where a single white sheet hung on the rack. He saw someone wear something like this once and thought he'd give it a try. He draped it over himself and adjusted the fabric as needed. As he left his house and started walking further into town, he saw more and more people. Vampires, pirates, superheroes, witches, bloody doctors, and ghosts like him roamed the streets laughing and running from house to house with their bags filled with candy. Thomas walked among them, unnoticed. About three times throughout the night, he would pause his walking and surround himself in the hustle and bustle of the town.
He listened in on friends exchanging laughter, stole glimpses of smiling faces, and just for a moment, it would feel like he was a part of all of that too. He continued his circle around town until he ended up back at his house where he would be greeted with the same silence he was bid goodbye with. Once he was back inside, he hung the sheet back in the closet and made his way towards his bed. As he tucked himself in, he gazed up at the artificial sky. By now, the beautiful sounds and sights of the night that he tried so hard to remember were reduced to mere echoes and blurred visions. He continued to search the ceiling until he found the star that was painted the biggest and brightest and closed his eyes as he made a wish. There was always one day in the year when the world was flipped upside down and everyone became something they weren't: Girls became princesses, boys became monsters, and Thomas became a regular boy. He wasn't sure why it happened or if it would ever stop happening, but he always wished for the day to come again next year.