“Go ahead, sweetie. I promise you won’t get in trouble.”

The girl continued to look down at her feet in silence. Beside her, holding her hand tightly, the woman’s face showed a mixture of sympathy and impatience.

“Okay I’ll start, then. She was in the gymnasium.”

The girl’s head shot up, a look of shock on her face. The older man’s face showed shock, too, but as he opened his mouth to speak the woman continued, raising her voice to speak over him.

“Which, as I’m sure you know, may well be dangerous but is certainly not illegal. So on any other day would be none of your damn business.”

The shock on the little girl’s face turned to amazement at hearing her mother swear.

The man sighed. “And so why is it my business today?”

At a nod from her mother, the girl spoke for the first time. “I saw a ghost,” she said.

There was a beat while the man tried to work out whether this was a joke then decided he didn’t care. “Well as I’m sure you can appreciate, we are all very busy at the moment,” he turned to leave.

“Peter,” the woman called after him. He paused. “I know you don’t have kids, but when was the last time you talked to someone under the age of sixteen?”

“I have more…”

“No,” she cut him off again, “you don’t. Nobody born in the last twenty years believes in ghosts anymore, there are plenty of scarier things out there now. It’s slang, Peter.”

He turned back around slowly, feeling the bottom drop out of his stomach, “Slang for what?”

“She saw a machine.”

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