best short horror

Ghosted

Ghosted

 

“Boy Exorcises His Ghosts” is my beloved title.

Done. I finished it. All words penned to perfection. Yes dammit, to my perfection. Editor’s eyes will enjoy their day, when I say so. This is my victory, my masterpiece of supernatural proportion.

Dare you become my editor?

Yes, you are tempted to mock me. Aren’t you?

Hold thy tongue!

I shall raise a glass and say a haughty “Screw You” to my intended musing of the title. I did happen to exorcise those ghosts right out of my life, and for good reason. Each had their way with me until I turned the tide against them. It’s odd to say this, perhaps? Does the spirit world claim power over human flesh as proclaimed by most religions? I did my research, yes. Religions do maintain the flesh is weak, and the human will is even weaker. Lean in, as I say this. Come closer.

I must whisper.

I expunged those apparitions on my terms.

How, do you ask?

It’s simple. A remarkable manner of wit and a touch of clever is the proper mix, at age nine, mind you, which happens to be a terrific age for a sharp tongue and clear-mindedness! I bore those spirits out over a period of six years!

Oh my, I am a bit drunk as I speak.

You are rather silent, Mr. Diploma-on-the-wall. Rather smug you are this evening, are you? I bet my published work will pay me well in kind. Tomorrow will be the day I find a home for the entire world to cast their admiration ~ no, their monetary admiration my way.

First, a toast!

 

AN HOUR LATER

The night ended with my face buried in the sofa and a red champagne mess on the tan carpet pieces aside my desk. Morning arrived, right along with a painful headache. I inched toward the medicine cabinet within my half-bath and fumbled with several plastic bottles.

Who the hell writes these labels? I swear these weird ingredients are something a linguist might decode. Is that right? Does a linguist decode?

Damn this headache!

Once I took two pills without water, I returned to slumber.

As my eyes shut yet again, a shapeless figure stood in my doorway. I waved a half-hearted greeting and my world faded to black.

How appropriate.

I awoke coughing, racing to the washroom for a glass of water. The mirror reflected my room in complete disarray.

Had someone broken into my place overnight?

No window or door left any evidence of anyone in or out.

What happened here?

As I walked through my den and to the kitchen, the mess seemed to lessen. Nothing beyond the threshold of the tiled kitchen floor seemed to be affected. Furniture remained in place. Books on the three shelved mantle above the fireplace all sat as usual. The coffee stand and side tables aside the main sofa all gave a stare back at me. Eerie silence settled. The typical sounds of passersby clicking their heels on the cement walkways and the rush of morning traffic vanished. I walked slowly into the den where most of the mess collected.

It revealed itself as the due cause of my immediate mystery.

Damn liquor bottle. I forgot I got drunk. How did I forget?

My phone rang, nearly making me jump, hitting my head on the low ceiling and breaking my neck. I grabbed my phone handle with my brand of irritated violence.

“HELLO?”

My reverberating headache reminded me to shut up.

“Marshal?”

My irritation vanished. But the throbbing in my head continued.

“Larry? Hey, it’s been a while, friend! What can I do for you?”

“You’ve been a recluse of late.”

“Well, you know me.”

“Does that mean you’re writing again? Or did some sexy woman do you in?

“The former.”

“So, what’s her name?”

“Are you listening, Larry?”

“Just pulling your leg. So what’s the script called?”

“If I tell you, I have to, well, ya know…kill ya.”

“All seriousness now. Do you remember Hector?”

“You mean the difficult to please movie producer turned prof who always manages to belittle anyone who thinks their writing is worth film-time?”

“That’s the one!”

“Why are you so excited to mention the bastard’s name?”

“He wants to review your writing, mister.”

“Alright, quit your prodding. Enough joking for one morning. Why did you call?”

“This is serious, bro. He asked me because you’re so private about your business, and no one seems to know your contact information, except me. You haven’t given me permission to give out your phone number or email. So, I called.”

“What are you doing to me, Larry? Raising my hopes. I might possess a complete a script, but that doesn’t mean I’m ready for his critique. He’s a beast.”

“Marshal, listen. There’s one thing I have learned. If the world’s most intimidating film producer is asking for a specific person’s work, you give it! He asked for you by name, Marshal. By name!”

“Sounds genuine. I’ll think on it.”

“Well, the closing for his personal pitch fest is this Friday. Today is Wednesday. You do the math.”

“Even if what I penned is good enough, you remember the man’s editorial method? I’d have to do a re-write assignment for the rest of the damn year. No thanks.”

“He asked for you by name, Marshal.”

“You’re bending my arm, Lar.”

“Hey, we’ve known one another for years, bro. I want the best for you. Why would I yank you around?”

“Cuz the last time you said something to me like this, she entered the picture and threw everything off course.”

“You mean Louisa? Oh, her. Hmmm. Yes, she sure did a number on you. I bear no control over outside circumstances and characters, and you know that. He asked. I called. You’re welcome.”

“Alright. Alright. What’s your fax number?”

“Email it as a PDF attachment. Get with the 21st century. Did your hairstyle disconnect your Internet connection with too much static electricity?”

“Larry, if this turns out the way you describe…”

“Hey, I didn’t promise anything. He wants to consider what you’ve written.”

“Alright, alright. Is your email address the same?

“Never shook off even a kilobyte.”

“What does that mean, Larry?”

“Boy, you are out of touch.”

I ignored his subtle insult.

“Larry, thanks, man. You breathed new hope up my arse.”

“Always looking out for you, bro. Just as you did for me in my final semester. You remember writing the last section of my thesis for me, don’t you? Such genius! Wouldn’t have graduated without your expertise.”

“Hey shut up, these phone lines are tapped.”

“Marshal? That was twelve years ago. Twelve. Now pipe down. I never forgot. You’re clutch!”

“Yeah, alright you got any more snide jokes before I go into high gear and promote my latest?”

‘Nah, you got wings now!”

“Larry, you’re the bro I never had.”

“Hey, don’t eulogize me yet! Hey, what’s the title of your project?”

“Ghosts…

Before I could answer to completion, the line went dead. I raced to my computer. Nothing. I held a breath for a moment. The absolute silence still hung heavy.

What the hell happened?

Before I could brainstorm an explanation, a shadow passed right through me! Through me!

I passed out.

When I awoke, no lights or anything powered up. So, I snatched up my hard drive with my script on it, heading for the library by subway. Grabbing my coat and locking my front door. I raced to take the #302, departing at 3pm. I forgot about why I fell asleep.

My hands restlessly reminded me my hard drive remained with me, including my subway fare, cell phone, and wallet. My fingers kept rifling through my coat pocket reassuring their presence. Maybe I wanted to convince myself I was actually awake.

I stood behind the yellow safety line as the subway raced by at breakneck speed.

The pause between subway cars felt like an eternity.

Larry sounded pretty serious about this. What could Hector want with my script? Back in college he hated what I did, always tearing into it, saying it’s flat, the dialogue rambled, or my story lagged.

I glanced across the subway platform. A girl turned to gaze at me and smile. I swung myself left and right to check if she greeted someone close to me. When I turned back, she stood on the track!

Horrified I called out to her just as a subway car rushed by, taking her down.

I knelt down, disturbed, fumbling with dialing 911.

Oh shit!

After the subway car had passed, there was no evidence of her, her remains, nothing.

The subway car hadn’t screeched to a halt.

What did I witness?

When I arrived at the library, I signed out a windowed study room. Within minutes, I settled in and held my head, collecting my focus.

The image of that girl on the subway tracks stamped itself into my thoughts.

How can I make this script happen now?

Undeterred but disturbed, I booted up the library computer, read its intranet policy, agreed to it, signed in and got myself focused for one more edit.

I buried my attention inside my script, transporting my imagination to a better place.

Someone knocked on the clear door to the room.

I turned.

I swear someone knocked! Damn imagination.

Taking a few deep breaths, I settled. I started reviewing my script, again.

Crap. There it is, glaring clear. Just like that girl’s face before she and the subway collided, I think.

A plot hole stared naked at me, on page ten.

I described my first childhood ghost experience. I was three at the time, barely speaking complete sentences. Somehow I remember the emotion of the conversation and the ghost. It seems I made a promise, but didn’t write it in. Of course that made sense to edit it out. I was three! That memory was vague to begin with. How am I remembering details now? I didn’t understand promises back then. And that’s not the room I was in when we spoke either. I have to include this sudden memory in this story. Damn. My description is wrong. Why didn’t I remember this earlier? Now I must research this again. This script can’t read like this. It’s inaccurate. It has to be complete. What could remind me better than a picture of the house itself?

I dug into my personal cross-referenced information, and I misfired about the actual address I lived in at the time. Dammit! How could I be so stupid?

I Googled the address and discovered a singular paragraph about two sentences long on Google’s Search Engine Results Page.

It read. “Last known address incomplete.”

The second sentence blinked a partial address asking me if I meant this entry.

The “Did you mean” sentence stood plainly on the top left of the Google page, just underneath the search bar. It shouldn’t have been blinking.

Is that why fear kept me from clicking?

It pulsed at me a little slower than my own heartbeat, which increased its beats per minute.

My finger on the left button of my computer mouse nervously cramped up. I pressed down, regardless.

The image of my old home came up.

The owners of the home posed in the front yard.

The small write-up underneath the picture made me almost fall over.

It said:

 

The original owners kept this house for one hundred years. They never sold. Both of them died in the upstairs master bedroom in 1977.

 

I was three at the time. My parents lived there with me.

LARRY!

I called Larry up on my cell and blasted him a new one about posting my early years incorrectly on the Internet!

He denied everything, alright. He Googled what I referenced and his voice silenced. I looked at my cell as if it lost its signal. After a long moment, he asked where I was. I told him.

I knew why he’d be here in record time.

He lived next door to me while growing up.

“This has to be wrong, Marshal!”

“Well, it’s right there!”

“And you see what I see, don’t you?”

“It’s my damn house with owners we never met or were never there, or something!”

“Refresh the browser, Marshal.”

It came up all the same on the computer screen.

“We lived with them? How, Larry? That house was never a duplex. My parents bought that house! This problem will go away with some public domain ownership papers. I can’t turn my script in like this! It’s inaccurate. It’s an autobiography of sorts. Dammit, Larry! Hector wants this story script by Friday!”

“Marshal. Just look!”

“Yep, there’s the problem, Larry. The address. No shit.”

“No, that’s not what I mean. Check it again!”

“Alright, close the door behind you. People are starting to glare. I have an hour left in here. I don’t want to get kicked out.”

Larry closed the door.

“Why are you here in the library, Marshal? I thought you paid for the Internet and everything.”

“My power’s out.”

“Oh. Now, look at that photo again. Not at the couple. Not the erroneous dates. There!”

He pointed to a tree off to the right of the home. Something peered around it.

“Marshal? Marshal? Dude, you’re pale! Hey, what? What? Come on! What’s wrong?”

It’s the face of the girl on the subway track.

I turned toward Larry, who screamed at me.

I couldn’t hear him at all.

I did manage to hear a whisper ` a female whisper.

“You, Marshal, didn’t expunge all of us. I am back because you broke your promise.”

I still couldn’t hear Larry.

Louder still was the female voice inside my head.

“You broke your promise, Marshal. You must pay!”

The last thing I remember was Larry screaming, covering his face from shattering glass while something pulled me out of the library room, and in front of a subway.

 

— end

 

 

Bill D. Bistak, Author, Producer of Bestshorthorrorstories.com & Founder of Friedrich Imagines, Ltd. a media production company

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