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  • Writer's pictureJabe Stafford

One Page Wonders IV - Dead On Camera

Flash fiction is a love of mine, and so are geeky tropes and pulp-style stories of every variety. Sometimes it's the characters that spur the writing. Other times it's atmosphere, concept, magic system, or a twist. One Page Wonders blogs started as a writing exercise. Now they're digestible, one-shot stories you can read on the bus or while sneaking 5 minutes at work!

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“Catalina, you are certain this is the best place for a dead one like me to hide?”

I beam at the ghost—a Taraxippus from old Greece—and say, “Sure is. This is California. There’s actors and streamers and celebrities like me here now, but the streets weren’t always filled with cars. Saloons like this were part inn, part drinking hall in the 1800s. People these days tour buildings with haunted reputations, so after we film here, don’t be surprised to see the living popping in with cameras. You can tell it’s a tourist when they act like everything’s a novelty.”

A whinny echoes off the street and up the stairs into the second floor landing where we tour the government-protected building in semi-darkness. Moonlight and streetlight slice between window curtains in the hallway, still furnished with dusty chairs and spindly tables, and I open a door to one of the landing’s many bedrooms. A hit of stale bedsheets smell comes out and I cough. I gesture inside, but the ghost seems to hear something and says, “Catalina, are there chariot races here? Horses and jousters and gambling on the winners?”

I wave a hand sideways in the air, the so-so gesture, then I realize the mythical spirit probably doesn’t know what it means. “Sort of. Something similar happened nightly here: drinking and card games. Gold seekers and railroad workers would tie up their horses out front and play cards—”

“That is why I heard horses a moment ago,” she whispers excitedly.

Checking my smartphone for a text or call, I murmur, “Dead ones, anyway.”

“I think I will like it here. I will chase the spirits of horses and people will expect a dead one like me to be here rather than try to exorcise me. They will like me being here.”

Nodding a bit too fast, I say, “Sure. Hang out in here for a while and get used to the atmosphere. Get to know the place so you don’t get lost before you chase those etherial equines.”

With that, I turn, wipe sweating palms on my bright colored sundress, and half-close the door.

The ghost raises her voice from behind the door. “I never told you my name. It was Riina. Thank you for hiding me from those who would wipe my kind from the world. Living—er, after-living here will be fun. Finding an enjoyable place to be dead is tough these days.”

A text pops onto my phone. I angle the screen away from the ghost and read, [Here now.]

Below, the saloon door creaks open. Goosebumps rush across my skin even though I know who it is. I get a “You’re welcome” out to Riina before I’m down the stairs and into the main bar area.

Terry and Troy cross the bar and lay camera equipment and a pair of duffel bags on the dusty bar along with a light kit. Their well-cultivated image of one-classy-black-man-plus-one-scruffy-redneck shows. The blazer Terry wears and the flannel and trucker hat Troy has on are their iconic usual combo.

Troy cracks a smile at me and waves me over, unzipping the first duffel. Salt, chalk, a King James Bible, and candles lie at the bottom. “We’re gonna git a million views a day with this, and it’s all ‘cause of you, Cat.”

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