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  • Writer's pictureJabe Stafford

One Page Wonders XI - More Than The Living Do

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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“So you operate on ghosts?”

“When they need it, yeah. I’m a dead singer. Just don’t ask me to actually sing.”

The YouTube ‘reporter’ mimes cutting into the air in front of him with a scalpel. “Like, actually open them up and put their ectoplasm back together?”

“Yake,” I say, glaring at each of his assistants to get them to stop his bullshit. “Ghosts aren’t like us. They don’t have physical matter to them. When they get hurt, it’s—”

“Then how do they hurt each other when they got no nerves? They’re fucking dead. ”

A phantom wails in pain behind me to the left. The assistants scramble away in a panic.

“Their feelings,” I spit. “That’s all ghosts have left.”

“Beccaaaaaa,” the spirit cries. Of course it knows my name already. Reputation.

While it hollers, I look around to take stock of anything that might heal this ghost. Yake’s filming studio is white everything. White couch where he’s sitting probably cost twenty grand. White paint on the wall behind him with white shelves of zen decor mixed with boxing gloves and streamer awards. No record player or music collection anywhere. No bowls of fruit or chewing gum. The only color and smells in the place come from him; teal polo with clouds of eau de toilette from some celebrity or other.

“Got any more cologne?” I ask Yake, unironically. “The more from different stores you have, the better. It might help her move on from whatever’s got her stuck here.”

Yake yammers, “I’m on camera, Becca. You expect me to believe there’s a real life dead chick that you’re—”

“The dead give more fucks than the living do. Right now you’re proving that. Now get me your cologne bottles.”

The phantom yowls again while he gets up from his precious couch and storms down a hall. “Cameraaaaaa. Beccaaaaa?”

“No, that’s not my name. It’s just Becca. Now what hurt you and what did you like when you were alive?”

Lowering her voice, the spirit says, “Not dedicated. Not good enough. Lose weight. Act better.”

So she did some acting when she was alive, or at least tried to. Reminds me of modeling a few years ago. Someone in her life grilled her so much the thing she loved became too painful. Demanded too much too fast. I move in front of where I guess the spirit’s voice is coming from, behind the back corner of the couch. Just at the edge of what must be off-camera. Slowly, I smile and show off the dark turtleneck sweater and aviators I have on. My fall rockstar look.

“You. Are good,” the phantom says. “Expressive. Mom said I. Never had that—”

Yake and his assistants crash in through the door he left through, cologne bottles and body sprays in their arms. “Don’t tell me you made the dead chick pass on already,” Yake spits. “I’m supposed to be there for that shit. We can’t edit in the good stuff if I’m not there.”

“No, they don’t ‘pass on,’” I say, snatching the least flowery looking cologne from his hand. “Nothing close to that. Pain keeps them in place wherever they are. Take it away and they can wander freely until something hurts them again.”

Yake gives the bottles to an assistant and crosses his arms over his polo shirt. “So the world’s full of whiny emo ghosts. Great. I don’t get enough whiners in the comments already.”

“Ever wonder why you get the chills in a brand new apartment? Or why it’s creepy closing at a mall job? Ghosts are trapped there because it's where they got hurt, either in life or most recently after death. A ghost needs something to interrupt its pain and trigger memories that aren’t hurtful.” I raise the bottle I took and smell the top. Musk, woodsy and classy. An almost father-like smell, which is surprising that Yake has anything close to that.

“So we need to make it feel not like shit?” he asks.

The ghost screeches.

I plug the ear closest to her and shout, “Two things can fix that. First, stop saying ignorant off-the-cuff edgy things. It doesn’t matter how quick you come up with something clever.”

Yake opens his mouth to argue, looks at the space where the ghost is, then at the camera. He clams up.

“And second,” I say, spritzing the air in front of me with the woodsy cologne. “What was your father like?”

Yake eyes the camera like his online image is on the line. Or like he’s caught in a lie.

I hit him with a do-it-for-someone-else’s-sake look.

He catches on, gesturing at the studio and its decor. “He was the only person that supported the dream.”

“Oh,” I say, still spritzing. “Is that why you challenge all those boxers and stunt men on your channel?”

“They say that to get better, you have to be around people better than you. And I lost most of those challenges.”

The spirit’s wailing, which had died down slowly as I spritzed cologne, stops. She appears, transparent, all brown ringlets and cheap diner polo with her name ‘Hallie’ on it stitched on the left chest pocket. She says, “Call me Hal Alexandra. It’s two first names, I know. Hey Yake, my father said cheesy things like that too.”

“Congrats,” I say to Yake. “You just performed your first ghost surgery. How’s it feel?”

He turns so he can see me, Hal, and the camera. “Did my channel just become one of those supernatural ghost seeker deals?”

“We’re called dead singers,” I say. Then I add for Hal’s sake now that she's listening and not wailing, “Just don’t ask me to sing.”

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