Whatever Happened to Zachary?


A young boy wakes up in the Central Station and finds that he can see ghosts but grown-ups cannot see him. He is arrested by the ghost police for talking to a beautiful ghostly girl. The ghost police take him to the church who give him to Mildred & Stella to look after. A host of people (living, dead, ghostly, undeceased, alien, and transdimensional) get involved in figuring out whatever happened to Zachary.

Chapter 1 - Mildred & Stella

Mildred was tall and wide, and had a big upright shock of red hair, beady eyes, and a frightening frown. She took no nonsense and she always knew how to set incorrigible boys straight. Stella was tall and slender, and had short black hair, beady eyes, and a crooked smile. She took no notice of any nonsense whatsoever and always knew how to talk sense into wayward girls.

Chapter 2 - The Pig & the Parrot

Mildred & Stella had a parrot and a pig. No one had any idea where they came from.

Chapter 3 - Father Verity
Usually, Father Verity turned up with a child to be straightened out, but this time he had turned up to warn them that a child would be coming tomorrow - a little boy who had been found, Father Verity covered his eyes in horror, living in the Central Station all on his own.

Chapter 4 - Zachary

Father Verity claimed that the little boy appeared to the dead as if he were an ordinary living boy, and yet he could see the dead, and would talk to them as if they were living (which frightened the life out of dead people and generally caused them to run away).

Chapter 5 - The Lane
To hear Mr Maynard tell it, parcels of land at both ends of the block had once been purchased by the same garage, and they had then purchased from the developer a narrow little lane to connect their two properties. Many neighbors had heard this story but few believed it because there were some big old trees growing in the lane and they were so big and so old that they would have made the lane impassable to cars decades ago.

Chapter 6 - The Treehouse
The pig grunted at the little man, and the little man grunted back at the pig (Zachary tried not to laugh), and the pig sounded insistent and the little man sounded like he didn't believe it, and the little man did some grumbling and some furious tapping of the keys...

Chapter 7 - Sarah

Zachary sat down with Sarah at the white plastic table and he helped her compose a contract for the grown-ups to sign.

Chapter 8 - Aunt Alice
When Alice stood up and suddenly sprouted her chains and began her horrible wailing, Zachary completely refused to cooperate. He turned the other way, scrunched himself up into a ball and put his fingers in his ears.

Chapter 9 - Mr Maynard
"Pig!" boomed a big voice from behind them. "Where are you going with that boy?" Zachary was dumbfounded. Mr Maynard was the first grown-up he'd met (who wasn't Father Verity or Mildred or Stella) who could see him.

Chapter 10 - Uncle Claude
In contrast to Alice, who could not contain her horror that the fleshy sweaty child could apprehend and approach her cool clean ghostliness, Claude spoke to Zachary as if he was just another ordinary dead person, and he even tried to be charming, in a snake-tongued kind of way.

Chapter 11 - The Lane Cafe
Zachary gasped. The lane was full of ghosts, dozens and dozens of them, glowing faintly in a rainbow of colors. Zachary studied them for a few minutes and noticed that many were standing with drinks, talking to one another, and that some were eating, and other dead people were floating up and down with trays... after a while Zachary decided that he was looking at a cafe for ghosts.

Chapter 12 - Journey to Hicking
Zachary found the design of the subway cars and the stations absolutely engrossing and Mr Maynard had to keep telling him to sit down properly in his seat because he wanted to spend the whole time kneeling looking out the window so he could see all of each passing station.

Chapter 13 - The Ghost Doctor
Zachary asked the ghost doctor why dead people would ever need medicine if they were dead. To which the ghost doctor laughed ruefully and declared that Zachary had to be just what he looked like - an ordinary living child - because no dead person could ever ask such a question. Of course the dead got sick! Any number of ailments could make them ill and especially their living relatives.

Chapter 14 - The Weather Station
The scanning took one whole hour. Zachary was extremely patient: he stood there like a mime in a bank line. At first Mildred & Stella were impressed, but later they became incredulous, and then finally they got irritated because, frankly, most dead people in a zombie-state weren't this excruciatingly patient.

Chapter 15 - Sarah's Crowd
"Where's that voice coming from?" Mary asked and Alison agreed. Sarah and Tracy and Amanda didn't get it, and pointed at Zachary, but Mary and Alison couldn't see any one sitting there.

Chapter 16 - All Hallows Eve
The denizens gasped in horror. At first they couldn't believe it. Then they realized that Mildred & Stella were right: he could actually see them. Here was an ordinary living boy and he was talking to them.

Chapter 17 - Glimpses in the Mirror
Muriel soon saw that her Jack was preparing a separate plate of food for lunch. Then one day Muriel asked Jack about it, and he pointed, and she looked around, and then she caught sight of Zachary in the mirror on Mr Maynard's closet door, and suddenly she could see him.

Chapter 18 - Ice Cream in Kiew Park
The train stopped, and for a few seconds the lights were dimmed, and suddenly, in a reflection in the window on the other side of the car, Colin could see a little boy sitting next to Sarah, and it was indeed, the same little boy he'd seen at the end of the corridor on All Hallows Eve.

Chapter 19 - Dean Hillick's Decision
They looked sideways and squinted at Father Verity, and probed him about the Station Manager's report, and whether Dean Hillick had actually read it for himself, and Father Verity admitted - with a cough - that actually, um, he had summarized it for the Dean. Mildred toasted scones and Stella got out the clotted cream and some of their billion berry preserves and they switched on Zachary's electric fire and Father Verity rubbed his hands in glee and put his feet by the fire.

Chapter 20 - Mildred & Stella's Predicament
And finally, how he'd brow-beaten them into allowing a trembling toad of an actual living man from the cable company to enter their delicious freezing cold damp dark kitchen and install - the very words made them shudder - a Cybernet connection. Zachary explained what the Cybernet was and how you could summon up no end of wonders, and Mildred looked like she didn't believe a word of it, and Stella stuck her tongue out.

Chapter 21 - Board Games with Mr Maynard
Alex and Felipe thought it was hilarious to be playing against Mr Maynard, since he was the biggest landlord in the neighborhood, and they particularly liked it when Mr Maynard got Christine to play too because they were always teasing her that she was a bigger capitalist than Mr Maynard.

Chapter 22 - Cards with Claude
Super eights wasn't a very hard game to play, and at first Claude was dismissive because he preferred games where victory depended on being able to see through your opponents' cards, whereas this was just a simple game of chance. There again, Alice remembered simple card games from several different childhoods, and how she used to get into fights with her brothers and sisters, and lost in reverie, she got carried away and felt like a little girl again, and even laughed and clapped when she won, and smacked Claude when she didn't.

Chapter 23 - The Parrot & the Squirrels
Then there was the parrot's bizarre game which truly convinced the neighbors that something unworldly was going on here. The parrot had a game in which he would perch on a branch in the tree at the end of Mr Maynard's garden and fling a peg backwards over his head so that it would fall in a long graceful arc 150 feet into a bucket hanging off the Ferguason's deck. The strangest part of all this was not simply that the parrot thought to do this in the first place but that he succeeded in getting the peg into the bucket almost all of the time.

Chapter 24 - Valerie
Suddenly Mildred came running down the hallway and burst into the kitchen and yelled at Zachary "It's that girl about the school!!!" and then she threw open the back door and leapt outside. Stella and Zachary sat there with their mouths hanging open. This was followed by an immense swoosh of wailing dead people who also shot out the back door.

Chapter 25 - The Station Manager's Report
Valerie told him they thought his appearance here couldn't have been an accident because it was too hard to make it happen and that someone from far further upstairs than they could see must have brought him here for a very good reason.

Chapter 26 - Mid Winter Day
Muriel went into a frenzy when she got the list and put Christine on the job immediately and they went online and bought the board game easily enough and then Muriel got into a panic because the special gift pack of subway playing cards was sold out everywhere they went.

Chapter 27 - Pamela
Meanwhile, Mildred & Stella had the not inconsiderable problem of the subway rides they had been cornered into promising Zachary. After struggling to think of something for several weeks Mildred & Stella suddenly had a brainwave: why not Pamela? The pig squealed. Father Verity's face drained of all color. Dean Hillick shouted at them down the phone. Alice & Claude, who were developing a very annoying fondness for the little pink bunny, looked aghast, and reminded them that Pamela actually frightened dead people even when she couldn't see them.

Chapter 28 - The Ghost Show
The next morning the TV crew banged on Mildred & Stella's front door and pretended to be the city's Foster Care Inspection Service and claimed that they had gotten complaints about witchcraft and animal sacrifice and demanded to see the ward of the church, the poor little boy who had been charged to the witches at this address.

Chapter 29 - The Ferguasons
Chloe, like her father, thought the stories about Mildred & Stella were ridiculous; but unlike her father she thought they were just cranky old ladies who were the victims of people's cruel imaginations. Morgan, like her mother, thought that as long as no one was harmed, people could believe whatever they wanted; but she went beyond her mother in wanting to believe that the stories were true, and that there really was an adorable little boy living upstairs - and right from the start she longed to find him and rescue him.

Chapter 30 - The Star Dance Show
Kelly stood back and suddenly Eve and Chloe could see a little boy, about 8 years-old, standing there in his racing car pajamas, shushing them because Star Dance was back from commercial.

Chapter 31 - Uncle Friedrich
Zachary was very happy to play dice but he insisted on keeping score and setting up a tournament and then after they'd played for a while and he'd won 10 games in a row he tried to persuade Uncle Friedrich to let Mildred & Stella and the pig and the parrot play too (by telling them to raise their hands and vote yes) and Uncle Friedrich couldn't believe the child's effrontery and upbraided Zachary for his insolence. Zachary told him he was very rude and scrunched himself up on his chair and looked the other way and they both glared at one another out of the corners of their eyes.

Chapter 32 - The Family Detectives
When he got to his friend's apartment, Derek darted into the living room and looked out the bay window and saw the little boy standing by the front gate taking a picture of him with a MyPhone.

Chapter 33 - The Secret Subway
Pamela told Zachary there was a reason no one ever went to Mormais Cove in winter and no one ever rode all the way out to East Park City at any time of the year but Zachary was too busy intently guiding them back to the station with the satellite navigation in his MyPhone.

Chapter 34 - Morder Road
Then he came up with the brilliant idea of tagging along behind Uncle Friedrich and talking to his victims and telling them to ignore his poor uncle who was a famous philosopher and couldn't help himself.

Chapter 35 - Walter Park
Uncle Friedrich and Robert Solon sat on fungus covered gravestones and reveled in the slimy cold and swapped stories of the glories of yesteryear and how the living were messing up their legacy with their wretched Cybernet which was making people too lazy to drive and philosophize.

Chapter 36 - Georgette
Zachary was so busy laughing at the pig's antics that he didn't notice the little girl until he was standing right next to her - suddenly there was a little girl on the other side of a gigantic spiky bush. Zachary stepped back in amazement. It was the beautiful ghostly girl from the Central Station.

Chapter 37 - The Treehouse in the Snow
The little old man was of the opinion that either he would have to go with Georgette or she would have to stay with him because someone had clearly gone to a lot of trouble to bring the two of them together.

Chapter 38 - The Inspectors
Lord Aristoffanes turned up his nose at Zapestra's tawdry tale but the Lady Aristoffanes was mesmerized by the videograph of Zachary reading the restaurant menu.

Chapter 39 - The Playdate Solution
The next day, after school, in the treehouse, Zachary explained the concept of the 'play-date' to Georgette. It was a period of play and exploration, to be supervised by a highly intelligent and very kind pig, in a long living lane full of exotic plants. Georgette giggled and asked how long play-dates lasted and Zachary replied an hour or two and sometimes an afternoon or however long it took to ride on the subway to the beach and back.

Copyright Christopher Stephen Toulouse.
Brooklyn, NY. 2013