Challenge: Write anything you want, as much and as many posts as you want (in any form) about a ghost. Be sure to put Ghost Writers in your title, and if you remember, put this challenge in your post so people won’t think you’re crazy.
I woke up dead. I always do, ever since I ghost-wrote the murder mystery in which I died. It’s become a hobby of sorts, this business of waking up dead. And it always means the same thing… I have to be somebody’s ghost writer. I wondered who it was this time. I stood up from the La-Z-Boy in which I’d found myself when I awoke, and looked around… and down.
There was no one in the room – a little bit unexpected but not unheard of. I was also buck naked, which was not unexpected at all… I usually didn’t “dress” until I figured out where I was and to whom I owed a long, slow death (a debt never collected) for restarting this silly hobby. No one was going to see me until I let them, anyway.
The door behind me creaked open.
Really? No one in this house knew how to oil a hinge? Two women came through the door. One of them was dressed in jeans, a blouse and a pair of boots – western boots pulled up over the legs of the jeans. The other was dressed as if it were the ‘70s… the 1870s. They were in conversation, and almost walked into me. As I stepped aside the girl in costume glanced up, put her hand to her mouth and said, “You’re naked! Why are you in Miss Annie’s writing room stark naked?”
“Molly!” I assumed she was the “Annie” to whom the costumed girl had referred. “To whom are you speaking? You know I don’t like it when you talk to other ghosts while I can’t see them.”
“Indeed Sir, who are you? And dress yourself and make yourself visible to Miss Annie.” Mollie had stopped and was standing, hands on hips, glaring at me.
I imagined jeans, boots and a light denim shirt and held them up to look at them.
“Come along, stop preening and dress yourself.” Molly was speaking to me as if I was a servant and she was…
“Oh, good grief! You’re the head of staff aren’t you?” I was appalled. “And you’re a ghost.” This was bad… really bad. “I don’t believe in ghosts,” I told her. “Never have. I haven’t ever met one before.” I sat down in the chair again and looked up at her.
Mouth set in a moue’ of exasperation, arms crossed she looked at me for a long moment, then… “Make yourself visible to Miss Annie. You’re being very rude.”
“Um-m-m-m… there’s a Miss Manners for ghosts?” I was feeling just a tad off my game, and a bit testy if you want the truth. I wrapped my “clothes” around me and added a last minute Stetson. “Well, all right, I will.” And I did, all seven feet nine inches (all that would fit in the room without me having to bend over) of me, and I stood up as I faded in.
Miss Annie was unimpressed. “Are you the Ghost Writer? That’s who I asked for, not Stretch-the-wonder-ghost. ”
I dropped to my normal five-eleven, losing the hat in the process. “Yeah, OK. I’m the ghost writer. You don’t have to say it like it’s my name. I go by Gordon. And,” I looked at Molly, “we need to clear something up. I don’t believe in ghosts. Where did she come from?”
“Dunno – she was here when I bought the house. But maybe you should ask her. She’s not a sideboard you know.”
“Yeah,” Molly was aggrieved, “I’m not a sideboard y’know.”
“No,” I agreed, “you’re not. You’re a ghost. I don…”
“Then pretend I’m not. But I don’t know about the others.”
The little study was suddenly crowded. No one said anything for a bit. I figured it was up to me. I turned to Annie. “I think I get it. The “oldest” person I see seems to be a native American, and I’m gonna guess he died at least five hundred years ago.”
“More like seven hundred.” Molly wasn’t arguing. It was just information. “The earliest European death was about four hundred and fifty years ago. They’re why you’re here.”
“That’s another thing. How did you find me? I’m supposed to be a big secret…. only work for politicians, crime lords (and the guys who capture ‘em) and the like. My minimum fee is a million dollars straight up, paid in advance to the charity of my choice. Do you,” I turned to “Miss Annie” and smiled, “have a million dollars?”
“So how did you find me? There are very few people in the world who know I exist, and only three who know the way to get me up and working. I doubt you know any of them.”
“But I do.” It was another country heard from. The speaker was a short, grossly obese young man.
“And where did you find all these ghosts?” I took a breath (yeah, I don’t breathe – I know it and you know it – I took a breath anyway). “I don’t…” I sounded plaintive, even to me, but maybe if I said it often enough it would matter, “…believe in ghosts.”
“Oh, stop being such a baby.” Molly had heard enough, and I guess I’d sounded plaintive to her, too. “Any human who dies within a mile of this place winds up here as a ghost. This little ball of irritation and annoyance,” pointing to the fat little man with undisguised disgust, “was the latest, and he wants the world to know it’s not fair. Miss Annie would just like a little privacy.”
I turned to the “little ball of irritation and annoyance” and asked who it was he knew. He named one of the three who could wake and send me. “He’s my cousin. I found your program on his computer. He told me how it works.”
“So you came up here and got yourself killed to test it out? There has to have been a better way.”
“There was. I didn’t “get myself killed,” I had a heart attack on a hike through these blasted piney woods. By the time anyone found the body, I was sitting in Molly’s kitchen getting told off for being a fool.”
I looked at Molly. She nodded smugly. Well, that explained one death. Perhaps I should explain another.
“Everybody understand English?” I waited for the nods. “OK, here’s what your young roomie and Annie have made you all a part of. I was investigating a disappearance, when I disappeared. From my perspective I was sitting at a desk hacking a suspect’s computer, and then I was in the computer. I suspect I was gassed or given an injection, but no matter, I was suddenly a computer program. I don’t believe in ghosts because I’m not a ghost. I “live” in a giant server that projects me to computers when my caretakers and I agree…” I emphasized “agree” and glared at the fat young man, “…that there is value in what someone is trying to write. I have a secondary program that releases me from the computer and allows me to do the tricks that make me seem to be a ghost, and incidentally frees up the receiving computer.” I ran down.
“Computers aren’t the only magic.” It was the Native American. “A shaman cursed this place, and we need you to figure out how and reverse it. I believe that computer magic might be able to overcome shaman magic, but you have to figure out the curse first.”
“Did you forget the curse when you died?” I figured I might as well get the obvious out of the way first.
He opened his mouth, closed it and opened it again. “Yes.” It was a croak of misery. He looked around. “I am truly sorry.” No one said anything. “You knew?”
“We’re not stupid.” It was Molly. “Half the county knows. We’re not blaming you. Some of us would just like to rest.”
“Me too.” He smiled at her. “Me too.”
I decided it was time to be a computer. “OK then, let’s have some information. Everybody out except the Indian.”
They all blinked out. Well, Annie walked out. You have to be a ghost, or a computer program, to blink.
“Not very PC, that “Indian” business.”
Yeah well, it’s hard to be PC when everybody’s trying to take advantage of me. But all I said was, “What do you remember?”
“I was floating in my mind, watching the Shaman. We had been rivals and enemies a long time and he had finally captured me. I don’t know what he gave me, but I felt disembodied. He told me what he was doing to me. I would die, but be condemned forever to awareness at this spot, as would anyone who died within what amounts to two miles of here. I would learn what it meant to be feared and hated by people I had to live with… forever. What can you do?”
“I am going to become a partner in your mind. I think you as a ghost are a lot like me, an electrical amalgam. One of two things should happen. You may disassociate, essentially die for good and all, and that should break the curse.” I looked at him. He just nodded. “You may,” I continued, “have those secrets in a package in your “mind,” in essence a memory that I can recognize. If that’s the case, I’ll see if I can extract what I need from it.” He nodded again… and lunged at me.
As we merged, I fought to maintain “self.” Once the chaos settled down I realized I could search his mind just as I could mine. It didn’t take long to find the memory. I opened it and almost lost control of the merge. With great care I reestablished control, selected the information I needed and gave him an electronic poke to get his attention. “C’mon, time to go. This time let me control it, or I’m liable to take something necessary with me.”
It took me nearly half an hour to extricate myself. I rounded on my temporary co-dweller in my mind. “Why didn’t you tell me?” I ran my hand through my hair, discovering it tangled and disheveled. I pulled it back into the traditional straight black ponytail. “He was your twin, wasn’t he? Was the fight over a woman?”
“Because I couldn’t believe you hadn’t recognized me. I guess you needed to see the twin. Yes, over a woman.”
“How closely are we related?”
“He’s your maternal grandfather, six or eight removes. I’m not sure.”
“I know the counter. It wasn’t in your memory.”
“I hoped you would. I didn’t think it would be, but I knew he would.”
“How did you find out so much about me, and about computers.”
“Annie leaves hers on all the time. I go into it.”
“Like you went into my mind.”
“Sorry ‘bout that.”
He went to get everybody else. When all were assembled, I told them I could end the curse. “It won’t just “end you,” I said, “but you’ll have the choice of staying or not. I don’t know how to end this eternity of ghosthood, but maybe we can figure it out. There will be no new guests, and you’ll be able to leave and come back. It’s not perfect, but it’s the best I can do right now. OK with everybody?”
I looked around. Everybody was nodding. I pulled up a childhood memory and began to chant in a language only two of us spoke any more… my six or eight times great uncle and me. My childhood “rain dance” chant had been the curse breaker for this curse. I had memorized it because my grandmother insisted.
When I was done, I asked Annie what she’d like. The home was, after all, hers.
“Just drop in and see me once in a while,” she smiled. “I think Molly would appreciate it.”
I looked at Molly.
“Are ye daft? Where would I go? I was born here, became a maid here and was honored to be the housemistress before I died. What would Miss Annie do without me? And how would she entertain a ghost anyway?”
I looked back at Annie. “Are you sure you wouldn’t like me to ghost a story or something for you? I’m pretty good at it.”
There was a beat… another… then, a smile. “I’m “pretty good at it” too,” she said.
“I’ll just bet you are. Later then.” I faded out.
Well, that’s the story. Er-r-r-r… can you help me decide which breeches go best with this ruffled shirt? I don’t want to embarrass Molly.