"Well, you're a rather gooey child, aren't you?" said Dr. Conjeeca, looking at the little boy sat opposite him. They were in Dr. Conjeeca's office, where he'd been attempting to shift some more of the paperwork. There was now a stack of manila folders on top of the filing cabinets awaiting filing, and the piles on his desk had a more orderly look to them. He was rubbing his left hand with his write, trying to get his fingers to uncramp, and looking at a grubby child covered in molten marshmallow.
"Bleurgh," said the child, which Dr. Conjeeca thought unhelpful. Someone tapped on the door.
"Come in," he called, wondering how long it would take to get the child's chair cleaned up again. Marvin strolled in, a clipboard in one hand and a Mont Blanc pen in the other. "Oh, Marvin, you came yourself? There's only a child here, I would have thought an orderly could cope...." The recrimination was plain in his tone.
"Probably, Hank," said Marvin leaning against a filing cabinet and checking that the office door had closed. "But I had other things to discuss with you anyway, and I know how phobic you are of appointments, and how much commitment scares you."
"Now look, Marvin," Dr. Conjeeca's tone was sharp.
"No, you look, Hank. I've known you since we were at university together, and there's no one here but us and Fluff, so I think I can drop the politeness and talk to you mano-a-mano."
"That doesn't mean what you think it means," said Hank. "What do mean, there's fluff in my office?"
"Fluff is the name of that unfortunate little child you have there, the one covered in ectoplasm."
"Ectoplasm? I thought it was marshmallow...."
"Where would a child get marshmallow from in here, Hank? You'd feed the kids on puppy food if you could still get the bulk-order discounts. No, it's ectoplasm. Fluff's parents both died in childbirth but it looks like the family were so close that they weren't going to let a little thing like that stop them, so Fluff was brought up by ghosts for the first three years of her life. Social Care Providers (Inc.) only found out when the neighbours called in an exorcist and he couldn't banish the child back to the plains of hell."
"How did both parents die in childbirth?" said Hank, interested despite himself.
"It's a little bizarre, but when the mother went into some kind of shock during the birth she was holding the father's arm. She started fitting, which caused to repeated squeeze and release his arm, and managed to set up a counter-pulse to his normal pulse. By the time her heart gave out and she stopped, the conflicting pulses in his body had ripped his heart apart."
"That's not bizarre, that's horrible!"
"You did ask, Hank. Anyway, back to the point, are you sure about Darnelle? Don't you think you should just send her on holiday and terminate her while she's away?"
"We don't kill people here!"
"Yes we do, only usually they're children and they drown. That's not what I meant though, Hank, I meant terminate her employment. She's becoming a liability, and even if you wanted to transfer her over the mer-program, I don't think we can realistically accommodate a whale in the aquarium."
"Blooph!" said Fluff waving a hand. It passed through the surface of the table, and Fluff looked surprised.
"She can walk through walls when she's not thinking about it," said Marvin, as Hank looked terrified. "That's probably how she got in here. Hank, can we get rid of Darnelle, please?"
"No, Marvin. Despite her little... peculiarities... she has a role here."
"Peculiarities? This morning she called me an inhuman monster!"
"It's probably one of her revised psychiatry terms, in her book that she's always going on about. It's probably a term of endearment, perhaps she's asking you for a date."
Marvin looked thoughtful for a moment, then sighed, and walked over to the chairs. He picked Fluff up, who gurgled, then slid through his arms and the chair and bounced on the ground. He picked her up again.
"Jellyfish," I should think, he said looking at her appraisingly. "When you release her to my program, Hank."