Come to Mama

by Mimi Manyin

As a first-generation refugee, Z. had never stayed at a resort before, let alone one filled with ghosts. All she wanted was to experience the grand luxury and comfort enjoyed by well-to-do Americans, dead or alive. She wanted to feel their soft beds, drink their fancy teas, and admire panoramic views of mountains and lakes. She wanted to use her clairvoyant ability – the only thing she could take with her when she fled her homeland – to connect with America’s past and present. 

When Z. won a two-night stay at the allegedly haunted Overture Hotel through their Wandering Spirits Sweepstakes, she knew her luck had turned. The majestic resort, built near the Rocky Mountain National Park a hundred years ago in Colonial Revival fashion, was so popular some guests refused to leave. The resort website boasted five resident spirits, including a little boy named Owen.

The Overture was alive with activity. Z. could sense restless ghosts buzzing up and down the lobby, but hours after she had checked in, still none had fully manifested to say hello. Later, when she entered the restaurant, the people dining there turned and stared as if she was at the wrong place. After dinner, she decided to take pictures of the grand staircase, the vintage Otis elevator, and the antique automobile on display in the hope of capturing a ghost on film just like everyone else. The staring turned into whispering. It made her brown skin crawl.

Z. retreated to her room on the haunted floor. She would rather hang out with ghosts. She opened a bag of Werther’s Original she purchased earlier. Apparently, the ghost boy on her floor loved candies. The concierge staff had been kind enough to share some tips about accessing the dead here, including three key words. 

Z. laid out the caramel candies on her nightstand and dimmed the lights. 

“Come to Mama,” she called. 

The lights didn’t flicker.

She turned the lights off.

“Come to Mama!” she called again. 

She waited a while. 

“Come to Mama?”

The ghost boy never showed up.

The next evening at the bar, Z. heard a woman bragging loudly about little Owen. The ghost boy had said hello to the woman even though she wasn’t staying on the haunted floor! All the woman did was whisper “Come to Mama!” and ta-da, little Owen responded and moved a candy. It was all captured on video.

Z. tried again that night, but the ghost boy didn’t come. None of the other ghosts showed up either. Did they not like her? Z. studied herself in the mirror. Of course, little Owen wouldn’t answer when she called. She looked nothing like his mother or any of the guests here. 

Go home! Z. heard a voice say. She held her breath. These folks had never wandered far enough to know or understand she wished she could go home – all the way back home to her parents’ graves and her own kind of ghosts who would always show up for her. But all those ghosts had scattered when the troops marched  in and killed what was left of humanity. 

Mimi Manyin is a writer, musician, and editor. Her work has appeared in Ploughshares, Witness, Meridian, Greensboro Review, and elsewhere. Mimi was a Sewanee Writers’ Conference Scholar and has also received support from the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference and Tin House Summer Workshop. She is at work on a novel and a collection of short stories. Connect with her @MimiManyin.