The Barter

Siobhan Adcock
The Barter Cover

The Barter


The ghost appears on page four. Bridget sits up with her fussy, ten-month-old daughter. First there is a swampy odor, and the the unstable white shape appears. Bridget sees that the ghost itself is a woman inside this shroud of static. She has dead black eyes and a mouth that opens onto a chasm of terrific hunger and need.

Bridget has given up her legal career to become a full-time mom. He husband works what she has come to consider suspiciously long hours at a game development company. They live in an Austin suburb where her friends are other mom's who handle their new roles with varying degrees of irony and enthusiasm. Adcock sets the stage for a psychological horror story with the ghost as an embodiment of Bridget's fears and insecurities, but this thing is real. Alternating chapters tell a story from 1902 of a young woman in the country town of German immigrants that has become this gated suburb. She will become the ghost.

The Barter is a good modern ghost story. Bridget's life of play dates, coffee breaks, summer art camp, and neighborhood cookouts all rings true. (Like I would know,) Her desperation and panic over marriage and motherhood, all of which she feels she must keep concealed from her husband, her mother, and her friends, doesn't need the added complication of this supernatural presence that moves from the initial confines of her daughter's and her own bedrooms until it has the run of her house. Telling the tale of the ghost's origin and bringing the two stories together takes a bit longer than it should, but the final encounter has the elements of terror and tragedy that this sort of story demands.