Condemnation of the Wraith by Corey Nyhus


i.


You are to assess the fate of the diaphanant, Ellexybaster (EL-eks-EYE-bah-ster), and, if you see fit, condemn it to death. Ellexybaster stands accused of influencing its host, *REDACTED*, to perform a reckless and malicious criminal act. Our nation’s future hangs on your good judgement.

At the end of our session, your answers will be a simple “yes” or “no.” That deceptive, elegant, simplicity will be the culmination of the data-driven context that we of the CTPCC shall impart to you shortly. Good evening. The CTPCC has designated me as your presiding counselor for tonight. My role is that of a legal expert, both on the case at hand, and on the growing phenomena of diaphanants at large. We are joined as well by an observing CTPCC medical professional, seated behind me, who will be monitoring our exchange for quality control, and lending his voice when necessary.

For those of you without prior misdemeanors relating to Transplanar Psychiatrics, a diaphanant is a wraith born from botched suicide. They take on a variety of challenging appearances, typically walk upright, and cannot be harmed independent of their human hosts. It is largely agreed that diaphanants are willed into existence with an intrinsic purpose—a drive and a process. Though their rationales have varying degrees of nuance in any given case study, all diaphanants are fundamentally driven by one of two core goals, and are therefore officially classified into one of two categories.

Drowner Diaphanants. There are diaphanants that are heckling shadows, which encourage their hosts to—and here I quote one of them directly—”have another try, actually show some commitment for once, and kill themselves properly.” A diaphanant is obliterated following the death of its host, so it is likely that this first gender of diaphanant wishes to die from the moment of its birth. Often possessing a flair for the dramatic, they have been known to make the relapsed suicide into a spectacle. Control Ordinance LOW-2 has been upheld in our state, and so the hosts of drowner diaphanants require registration, routine surveillance, asylum accommodations, and the seizure of any and all surplus autonomy. Some registered hosts of drowner diaphanants may be permitted work papers, dependent on the drowner diaphanant’s severity index.

Caretaker Diaphanants. On the so-called opposite end of the spectrum, there are diaphanants who want their host to never again attempt another suicide. They are said to have a strong empathic bond with their host, as well as an acute sensitivity to pain. Many reported instances show these wraiths taking on the role of a therapist or a life partner, and 35 percent of caretaker hosts have gone on to live lives well beyond the national average life expectancy. Typically, these wraiths are able to coexist without broader threats to institutional stability. Caretaker diaphanant hosts are in no way legally required to maintain asylum presence, however they may opt into formal registry and annual surveillance on a voluntary basis.


ii.


Out of the two, the caretaker temperament may seem more favorable for the host at a glance. However, emerging studies conclude that many of these diaphanants manifest their empathy in ways more akin to a kidnapper than a babysitter. It follows then, that the Corporation of Transplanar Psychiatrics and Crisis Control have been offering cash incentives for caretaker hosts who publicly disclose and register their condition, and open their homes to more routine monitoring.

Consider the following case study. A woman by the name of *REDACTED* bound to her bed by a series of knotted sheets and belts, her caretaker diaphanant a tall urn with an orchestra of insect legs. It bore the name Kentaviev (KEN-tah-VEEV), and feared its host, a retired politician, might try drowning in her pool’s deep end once more.

Upon its birth the wraith suffocated and thrashed alongside its host in that chlorinated water. Without a moment to spare, *REDACTED* was found and rescued by her athletic daughter and only housemate. The trembling teenager then laid her mother on the nearby patio and embraced her, but soon found *REDACTED* to be inseparably bound to the barely-tangible Kentaviev, who moved as rapidly as the human eye can blink. The wraith had a shaky cough, as though it were clearing the water out of its organs. It would retain this cough for the rest of its existence, always trying its best to stifle it.

Contrary to the nomenclature, the attempted act of drowning does not yield a higher chance of spawning a drowner diaphanant.

After three years in the constant shadow of that “tall and unhuman thing,” the daughter, without any notice, left the family mansion on her 22nd birthday. By then, the inground swimming pool was viscous, teeming with algae and long-legged mosquitoes.

“I’d try to call her,” Kentaviev has said. “But every time she would tell me she was moving somewhere else. Better coaching opportunities, she’d say. She loved fitness. She loved filming her life. But she also loved to lie. So, one day, after she refused to pick up, I ripped the phone apart like it was a little turtle carcass. A woman useless to the woman I loved most had no place in our home. I’d have to do it all on my own.”

So Kentaviev forbade *REDACTED* from going outside, threw all of her clothing into a trash incinerator, and insisted she need never cook for herself again, nor access any screens which might otherwise stir passionate urges. Kentaviev gagged her with a rag most hours out of the week. Chewing and swallowing were also forbidden, as the caretaker diaphanant criticized “the ill-conceived biology of the human throat—its windpipe and esophagus always perilous neighbors. How it invites the undignified choking death with every swallowing tic.” Instead, it would restrain her head with its chattering legs, run thin siphons down her nostrils and force-feed her a nacreous yogurt from one of its exposed organs. In years to come, a similar setup would be arranged to more safely dispose of her excrement.

“Yet what a gentle neck you have. Fit only for breathing the purest air.” With great delicacy and intention, it played with *REDACTED* platinum hair with a quivering, many-jointed limb. Every time Kentaviev sighed, it secreted a glassy perfume that reduced libido and adrenaline levels, and triggered a minor dissociative response. In her only known interview with a Transplanar Psychiatric Official, *REDACTED* recounted the daydream she’d often have in this hazy state. Her entire family were applauding her in a coliseum of steam, for she had just been appointed senator, having won 97 percent of the popular vote. It always made her cry, no matter how many times she lived it. Hallucinated courthouses from miles away would sigh out reformed citizens, crying along with her.

Tears were the one secretion Kentaviev allowed to remain unregulated, and its host cried for most of the interview. As Kentaviev’s steam plumed outward, wafted through the rest of the estate, it also proved effective as an insecticide. Years of accumulated mosquito bodies and the crumpled spiders that would have preyed on them, lay obliterated around the manor grounds to this day. “I do get bored,” was the last thing Kentaviev is known to have said. “I do get a little bored.”

*REDACTED* lived to be 136 years old—outliving her daughter by 72 years—and an extensive autopsy found no conclusive cause of death.


iii.


Councillor, I’ve never so much as looked at that autopsy and I don’t intend to.

Such granular details are of little interest to me as an observing psychiatrist.

They should certainly be of no relevance to our captive audience of jurors.

In justice, like any urgent operation, we’ve not a moment to spare.

Consider that my “expert medical opinion.”