Please vote the piece you feel is most deserving:

Poll closed Jul 17, 2011.
  1. seelifein69 - Guilt

    1 vote(s)
  2. Ivanshi - In Passing

    2 vote(s)
  3. Cain - Da Na Na Na Na, Neville!

    1 vote(s)
  4. J.P.Clyde - Soldier Blues

    2 vote(s)
  5. TedR - The Argument

    0 vote(s)
  6. Freedomsyours - Natural Beef, International

    3 vote(s)
  7. emwinshi - World Revolves Around Me

    2 vote(s)
  8. Mallory - It Came from In the Walls

    2 vote(s)
  9. Solar - Call it a Day

    5 vote(s)
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  1. Gannon

    Gannon Contributor Contributor

    Jan 15, 2007
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    Manchester, England

    Voting Short Story Contest 96: The Ghost That Never Was

    Discussion in 'Monthly Short Story Contest Archives' started by Gannon, Jul 4, 2011.

    Voting Short Story Contest (96) Theme: The Ghost That Never Was

    Thank you for all your entries. The winner will be stickied until the next contest's winner is crowned. No more entries are allowed in this contest.

    Voting will end Sunday 16th July to give you all a chance to read the entries.

    It is possible to vote for yourself, but I would hope in the name of good sportsmanship that you would only do so if you have read all the other stories and given them your honest evaluation. You gain nothing if you base your vote solely on how you feel about the author or whether you have personally invested time and effort in the story. In the end, your conscience is your only judge.

    Any entries under or over the suggested word limit will be flagged as such - they are still entered in to the contest. It is for you to decide whether they are still worthy of your vote.

    Any entry not in accordance with the theme will be dealt with on a case by case basis to determine eligibility. Consider how the author has responded to the theme in making your decision.

    Good luck to everyone.
  2. Gannon

    Gannon Contributor Contributor

    Jan 15, 2007
    Likes Received:
    Manchester, England
    seelifein69 - Guilt

    Virginia had no emotion on the outside, but on the inside was teaming and brewing a struggle between herself and another being. After everyone had read about the incident in the papers, she hadn't bothered socializing anymore. And although she was never taken to court, she knew; Virginia knew that everyone thought she was guilty. She knew they thought she killed her husband. It was an accident, but surely they would know why a 45 year old man dropped dead at the dinner table, foul play. After she had dialed 911 that day, after she watched them haul off her husband she refused to speak to anyone. Not to her sisters, her husbands lawyer, or even anyone from the church. She didn't bother reading the paper ever again, why when it would just be full of allegations of her? If she could stay all cooped up in the house, maybe no one could punish her for her wrong-doings.

    She could feel him often, her husband, stalking her in the night. It was almost as if she could hear him wandering around the house in a drunken otherworldly daze, screaming in pain. Surely he wouldn't have known when he was alive that she was poisoning him, he couldn't have. Virginia had warded off the memories for many years, she kept it secret from herself, constantly denying her guilt. Until soon she began declaring her sins for no one, repeating the truth of what happened for the walls to hear. Only then did the real demons start to haunt her soul for redemption. She couldn't handle the responsibility of her lovers death, at times she even believed it wasn't her fault, he died so quickly; the antifreeze had never done that before. Voices, always voices, sometimes it was Ronald, sometimes it was the police, sometimes the devil. But for twenty years there was no confrontation, and for twenty years the soul of Virginia Blackstone was burning. It was the constant noise of an old song that slowly drove her insane; Ronald's favorite song, and the trumpet, seemed to be infinitely on repeat in the back of her mind, tickling her nerves to madness. He must have known, for if Ronald had known that Virginia had been giving him thimbles full of anti freeze every week for two months, his soul, so connected with God, would come back to make her pay her debts.

    She had killed him, and it was irreversible. For Ronald, who did so love his Virginia, had a love far deeper for his voluptuous choir director. She remembered the thought of embarrassment and hurt that churned her stomach to rage as she threw around the potatoes she was peeling for their meal that night, twenty years ago, in anger. Small doses of anti freeze would make him ill, but not kill him, and then he would surely not be able to work. The plan was she would continue slipping him small doses until the church found a new pastor, when he would miraculously get better and they would be forced to move to a new town for work. Everything would work out perfect, and she could get her husband back from the claws of that devil woman.

    But that night, at the dinner table a fight broke out, and after getting red and enraged, Ronald fell to the floor, dead. Surely it was the potatoes, she thought. She had put too much poison and killed him, and now what was she to do? That's why Ronald was haunting her, he knew, perhaps he knew all along.

    She could hear his voice louder now, screaming at her, and the noise of the trumpets blaring in the background, her mind was so busy that she couldn't stand it. The old woman held her hands up to her ears, begging for him to stop. She managed to get up from her chair by the window and make her way through the hall, if she could just leave this house and lock his ghost in it, she could be rid of the memory of Ronald forever.

    The voices were so loud in her head she was stumbling to escape them and made it to the banister that led downstairs, "It was an accident, I'm sorry!" she screamed, her white hair affray in all directions. She could feel his big hands around her throat, choking her, and laughing as she struggled. Her weak arms were no match to strength that wasn't palpable. Gasping for air she fell, collapsing down, thudding against each step as she can see her life with and without Ronald pass her by. Landing in disarray on the floor, she welcomed the quiet in her head as she choked and struggled for her last breath,her soul comming to terms with the guilt. She faded into nothingness and black.

    At the eulogy, the pastor made a beautiful service for the previous pastors deceased wife. The whole church congregation was gathered to pay their respects to the pious Mrs. Blackwood, whom they believed always put God and her family first.

    The pastor said aloud:

    "Virginia Blackstone died on the twenty year anniversary of her beloved husbands death, Ronald,which goes to show how strong that love was. They were a match that could have outlasted the years, until our dear Ronald, a former pastor for the St. Agnes Church of Christ, suffered a massive heart attack one night, where he died in the ambulance on the way to the hospital. We all know how much this affected poor Virginia, she was so heart broken that she couldn't bear to speak and locked herself up in that house until the very day she could fly to heaven to be with her husband again. And then she left us, finally giving in to her life-long struggle with asthma, which claimed her life on Sunday. The Blackstone's were a strong-knitted couple that helped this church to grow into what it is today. May God lift your spirit onto him, and the darkness be forever light. God bless Virginia who is finally reunited with her Ronald. Amen"

    The masses crowded out the door to forget Virginia forever.

    "That lady must have went crazy in that house all alone." a little boy said to his mother when the eulogy was done.
  3. Gannon

    Gannon Contributor Contributor

    Jan 15, 2007
    Likes Received:
    Manchester, England
    Invanshi - In Passing

    Samantha leaned back in the chair, craning her neck to look at the painting just behind her to the side. Normally, it wouldn’t have been her cup of tea at all. It was a rural scene in oils with a rundown farmhouse in the distance and long grass leaning aside, swept in the breeze. It was the grass that always grabbed her eye and she often wondered if it was the sense of movement to it that she’d get caught up in.

    Looking back to her therapist, Alan, she found him watching her keenly. His eyebrow was raised in that manner he’d always show when about to be cryptic. It annoyed her how often he’d raise that eyebrow and throw out one word, giving a brief pause before explaining himself (or rather, explaining her) with more accuracy than she was comfortable with.

    “Escape…” he said. “You tend to look at that picture whenever we’ve touched on something that makes you nervous.”

    “I’m not nervous,” she told him, and it was true.

    “Fine. Uncomfortable, then.”

    “Is that your next buzzword for the day like ‘Escape’?”

    “Well, you’re definitely not at ease. Is it talking about Kyle that’s unsettling? Because you’ve seemed fine talking about him for quite some time now. Months.”

    “Heh… I don’t think I’m ever going to be fine about Kyle.”

    “I know that,” Alan told her. “This seems different though. This doesn’t seem like loss or how it’s affected you.”

    Samantha pursed her lips to one side, chewing the inside of her gum before she made a conscious effort to stop, realising it was in fact something she’d do when nervous. She also felt her neck stiffen, the urge to look at the painting as good as a yoke weighing upon her. It was only when the third of her many neurotic nuances began to arise - that of squinting her eyes tight as punctuation – that she decided it best to be honest with him.

    “No…” she began, doing her best not to squint as she paused, “No, you’re right. This is different. You’ll think I’m crazy, though. Really.”

    “Perfect place for it,” Alan smirked. “Believe me, dealing with your intense shyness and OCD’s a drop in the ocean. I shouldn’t tell you this, and believe me when I say I wouldn’t mention your affairs to others, but I have one patient who’s terrified of falling in lust with his dog. He isn’t, nor will be. But it’s the fear of it he can’t shake. So, try me… whatever you’ve got can’t be too bad.”


    “Honestly,” Alan said. “I won’t breathe a word. I only mentioned him because-”

    “No, I mean the guy… the dog. I mean, really?”


    “I guess what’s on my plate isn’t that out there then.”

    Alan simply nodded, suggesting that this was his point entirely.

    “It’s Kyle,” she said. “I saw him.”

    “In a dream…?” Alan asked, his tone implying he already knew that the answer was no.

    “Outside my house. And in,” she said, squinting. “I see him about the house now, but it began outside. Near a window, on the lawn… even on a train one day. All the places I’d normally have seen him.”

    “Does he speak?” Alan asked.

    “No. I never see him for long, just glimpses almost. He’s never spoken, but his mouth moves as though he’s trying to. I just don’t hear anything.”

    “Well, they’re not auditory hallucinations, so I don’t think it’s too much worry,” Alan told her. “It could just be fatigue at times if you’re still not sleeping properly. Or maybe he’s on your mind more so of late. Have there been any anniversaries lately? Birthdays, wedding… anything like that?”

    “No, you don’t get it,” she groaned. “I know I’m not crazy. Not like that. I might have a few wires loose, but this is different. I mean, it’s really him. I’m sure of it.”

    “Okay. Can I ask you, is it you believing you’ve seen him that worries you or is it what others might think.”

    “Does it matter?” she asked.

    “Very much. I’ll be honest with you, I believe that you believe you’ve seen him. Personally, I can’t believe such a thing. It’s just not me, Samantha. I’m all about the degrees on the wall. However, there are, like you, many people who believe that once someone’s died there’s still a connection to the other world.”

    “Is that what you think this is?”

    “Ooh, no,” he said. “I’m assuming that’s what you think. And that’s fine, Samantha. Really. I tend to put matters like this in the boxes of science and faith. Everyone’s entitled to pick one. But like I said, personally, I believe there’s a clear boundary between the living world and the dead. There’s no going back between the two. But that’s me.”

    “I used to think the same.”

    “Well, now it seems you don’t. And you’re not alone in that either. I would advise being careful, though. Faith’s one thing, but having it abused is another. There are a lot of people out there that’ll try and milk it with empty promises of helping to make contact between those who’ve passed on and their loved ones. They’re the real threat as far as I’m concerned.”

    “So you don’t think it’s crazy?”

    “Not one bit. Unless it becomes too frequent or something you’re uncomfortable with. If he starts popping up and asking you to steal a car for him, then we do have a problem. But this…? No. I imagine you must miss him a lot.”

    “I do.”

    “It’s hard, I know. It took me quite some time to adjust to a life without my wife. The hardest thing, and the most surprising, is that after death nothing much changes at all. You find yourself in the same world, same buildings, sky, everything… but nonetheless it’s so empty and so different only for what you can’t hold anymore. But it passes, Samantha.”

    “Can you promise me that?” Samantha asked, smiling sadly.

    “I can guarantee it,” he told her. “In the meantime, if you believe that those two worlds either side of life and death can meet up and hold hands, run with it, I say. If you see Kyle and it doesn’t give you the heebie-jeebies then enjoy it, I say. And if it does fill you with guilt, fight it. Make it something nice.”

    “I should, shouldn’t I?” she said, this time smiling more fondly.

    “Definitely. I can tell you this, if those worlds, the living and the dead, came together for me and I saw my wife, I would relish every second of it. Like I said, the world still seems the same, but different. But that loss, not being able to hold them again, that becomes different too. It passes into something less painful, something fond.”

    Samantha gave a slight nod, taking in all he said before she again nodded determinedly. “No, you’re right. Can I ask… How long has it been for you? Without your wife, I mean.”

    Alan gave a small sigh that betrayed his previous optimism, but he smiled nonetheless – fondly, just as he’d said.

    “Let’s see… The cancer hit at age thirty-one, so it would have been… twenty-three years now. And yourself? Your accident was-”

    “The car crash…” she said, nodding solemnly. “It’s been almost two years since the car hit that tree. It was horrible. Frightening. And loud. Not so much the crash, but how loudly Kyle cried and screamed.”

    “Who knows…” Alan said. “Whether it’s true or not, maybe that’s why you keep seeing him, just so you can believe that somewhere he’s okay still. Like I said about doing the math, my Martha’s now fifty-one. And while I still like to think she moved on to be happy, there’s some days I hope she bawls like a baby, missing me like the dickens.”

    “That’s horrible!” Samantha said, wide-eyed.

    “Isn’t it, though,” Alan chuckled. “But that’s my point Samantha. It’s not even been two years since you died. If you’re seeing Kyle out of guilt, you’ll find that in passing that changes and death just carries on.”
  4. Gannon

    Gannon Contributor Contributor

    Jan 15, 2007
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    Manchester, England
    Cain - Da Na Na Na Na, Neville!

    Neville was a superhero. A goddam, real life, crime bustin’ superhero. Not that he had any real superpowers, but that was ok, he wasn’t that kind of superhero. He was the kind that took your regular, normal guy abilities, and super-honed them into something awesome. In particular he had honed the ability to be invisible. He could blend, camouflage, or generally unobtrusify himself into the background. So perfect was his super-honed invisibility skill, that he was called;

    The ghost!

    Pa-chow! Neville struck a ninja pose in front of the mirror. Dressed all in black he felt the shadows swirl around him, concealing him in a truly super-ghostly way. Actually, his sister’s leotard was slightly too small for him, and felt a little too snug in certain areas. Yet not in an unpleasing way, although he was trying not to think about that too much. It would only get snugger if he did. Besides, that was not what superheroes thought anyway, the arbiters of justice are always above such things, and so was he.

    The big decision was whether to wear his costume to school - under his uniform of course. The classic secret identity, rubbing next to his skin, ready to be exposed the moment a crime emerged. He pushed down the thought of snugness again, and decided to go with it. There was always injustice in the playground, and today maybe there would be a hero to step in and save the day. He quickly threw on his school clothes over his outfit, and ran downstairs.

    His mum was rummaging through her purse, “We’re late! I haven’t time to make you sandwiches, so here’s some money.” She thrust five pounds at Neville. “That’s for your sister as well. Make sure she gets something to eat too.” Laura, his nemesis, glared at him. Did she know about the leotard?

    “Into the car. Where are your books? Come on Neville, stop standing there like a lump of, of, whatever”. His mother was frequently lost for words when she was feeling stressed. A definite sign that possibly this was a good time to emerge from the shadows and go to the car. He grabbed his bag and stealthily left the house. Laura followed, scowling, and kicked at his heels while he attempted a single bound to the driveway. His sister was rarely in a good mood first thing, and today was no exception.

    The drive to school was unexceptional. No speeding tickets this time. However the rush seemed unwarranted as they arrived with plenty of time. Neville and his sister poured out of the car and merged into the swarming playground. From one world into another. A world where crime and danger hovered menacingly at every corner.

    Neville unfortunately ran straight into one of these menacing corners, a corner occupied by Jason ‘Pitbull’ Peters. Plus cronies of course. The criminals immediately saw their mark and quickly surrounded him.

    “Pay day nobville.” Pitbull grinned at his joke. He had personally come up with this witty play on Neville’s name, and still found it funny, three years later. “Whatever you’ve got, it’s ours. C’mon!”

    Neville was in a quandary. Could he be victim and hero at the same time? If they can already see him, how could he bring his superpowers into play? The only way was to escape, and then return as the hero. Maybe. Just escaping was probably the best part of the plan.

    He leapt to one side, arcing gracefully between two of the lesser cronies. Mid-leap he suddenly felt an excessive amount of snugness as Pitbull grabbed his shirt (plus underlying supercostume) and yanked him back. The gang proceeded to bounce him around a bit, chanting nobville repeatedly. Pitbull then steps in with the coup de grâce, namely a huge thumping punch to the stomach. Neville can’t quite believe how involuntarily he has to double up and fall to the floor, but having no choice he does so and proceeds to make wuhwuh noises. He hears the laughing of the gang above him, and avows his revenge. Silently.

    A little later he’s still lying there, although lighter by five pounds. Laura has found him and now glares at him with sisterly compassion.

    “Dumbass,” she says. “Serves you right for taking my leotard you perv.”

    She takes a step back, about to leave, but stops and says, “And by the way moron, the theme was The Ghost that never was, not The Ghost that Neville was. Duh.”
  5. Gannon

    Gannon Contributor Contributor

    Jan 15, 2007
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    Manchester, England
    J.P.Clyde - Soldier Blues

    There were ribbon streaks of red, white, and blue on the classic, black coffins. How patriotic? How patriotic even at a time like this? Where we lay still uniformed. Still dressed to serve. Yet, we're all dead. That's what they are saying up there. We can hear their muffled voices, we hear their cries. We stared at each other. It was an odd sensation really. We were both very much dead to them and yet to us we were very much alive. I wouldn't consider it astral projection, because we could feel our bodies. Our bodies were conscious. Our bodies were fully alive. It was an almost comical scene, as loud music blares and we bang on the wood of our coffins. Why no one could hear us, we wondered. Did no one have good hearing? What about the pope who is next to the coffins?

    Or how about my wife who now lay flowers? Or how about David's brothers? Why couldn't they hear us? Why couldn't they hear our cries? We could perfectly hear theirs, we wanted to comfort them. We wanted to hold them one more time. And Micheal, he was to have a child soon; yet his love couldn't love him enough to hear his pleas. We were wasting our breath. We were wasting our strength. In whatever state we were, souls, astral projections of ourselves, we felt exhausted, and tired. Of all the battles we battled, of all the things we had witnessed. Fighting to not be buried alive seemed; seemed impossible. And we don't normally feel situations are impossible.

    They were doing the service they did for our fathers. Other soldiers. Other friends. And yet they couldn't hear us either. Through the battlefield, through thick and thin they knew when we needed help. They saved us countless of times. Yet, this one time they couldn't hear us. Yes, there were flags of red, white, and blue. All streaked across our funeral. How patriotic? And we weren't even dead yet. But they said goodbye and unraveled their secrets. And buried us in the dark.

    The flowers would come every year. But we would only watch from above, not knowing our bodies had rotten away. We could still feel the, scratching, clawing at the coffin. We could feel our forearms, sore from banging. How long had we been alive? How long have we been dead? We never know. Because we can always feel it. Always feel it for eternity. And one day it was like they forgot or they moved on with their grief. Yet, we hadn't. The flowers stopped coming; once fresh flowers that had strewn across our names in proud bold colors, wilted. Our sons or daughters with only one clear path ahead of them. An ultimatum either step in the shoes that we once stepped or step in no shoes. Their mothers or their fathers still clinging unto our memory in their children.

    With nowhere to go our children are washed upon a shore with no hope. And they too die, but not physically. Our wives or husbands still cling unto our memory, but swear they have moved on. Finding new lovers. Finding new things to fill their lives. Trivial meaningless stuff as they try to move on with their grief. Like a cement block it ties itself to their soul. Never willing to truly budge. We had the gift of life. But we threw it away. Yet, we ask for their forgiveness. We ask for their sympathy. What do we give in return? Nothing, but honor. We keep soldier on, even when there is nothing to soldier. We ask for their respect.

    But we have nothing to give them. But honor. We ask for their condolences. But we only have honor. What in the end stops everyone for crying for false heroes? We wonder. As we stare at our own graves. We will both wonder was it worth; the answer will be a simultaneously yes and no. Two thoughts at the same time. Both contradictions. We have no other way of answering.
    Yes, that day at only twenty some of us older. There were flags of red, white and blue bleeding across black coffins. But today, no one remembers us. And those who do. Want to forget the way others so easily can.
  6. Gannon

    Gannon Contributor Contributor

    Jan 15, 2007
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    Manchester, England
    TedR - The Argument

    He sat on the bed, his elbows on his knees. She stood in front of him.
    "So, what, that's it?" she demanded. She crossed her arms over her chest, her eyes squinted.
    "I don't know what else to say," he replied, shaking his head. He looked up at her with weary blue eyes.
    "Don't you feel anything? You feel nothing?" she said as she paced the room, grinding her fist on the bare white wall.
    "You can't keep bringing this up," he said, gripping the blanket with his fist. He released it and gripped it again.
    She stopped and stared. "We were a family. How could you do that to your own-"
    "Don't say it!" he yelled. He clenched his front teeth. His nostrils flared, his eyes wide.
    "Your own daughter!" she shouted, her voice cracking.
    He slammed his fist on the bed with a dull thud. "Damnit, I told you not to say it! I didn't do a damn thing!"
    "It's all your fault," she sneered, pointing at him. "All your fault. Look what you made me do!" She held out her wrists, crisscrossed with scars. They were deep with freshly formed scabs.
    "Don't show me that!" he said, waving his hand. "That's why I tried to take those pills. I couldn't deal with this anymore. Not after what happened to her."
    "Oh, so you just wanted to up and quit? Give it up? Is that it? Real selfish, always thinking about yourself." She paced the room until she stopped at the brown dresser. She held her wrists over the dresser edge. He watched her unblinkingly and was silent for a moment, until she looked up and grinned at him.
    "Don't do that," he said, shaking his head.
    "What, are you going to stop me?" she challenged, her wrists hovered just above the sharp wood. She curled and uncurled her fingers, the nails chewed and jagged.
    "Don't do that," he said again. He stood up.
    "Think of our daughter! This is nothing compared to what she feels!"
    "Damnit, what did I say!?" He stomped toward her as her wrist touched the wood.

    Four people stood outside the room, a man in a white coat, two tall assistants, and a nurse, flicking the tip of a syringe. One of the assistants held a length of velcro. They peered into the room through a slitted window.
    "Having another episode," the man in the white coat said. He nodded to the nurse, and the three entered the room. Screams and wails soon echoed up and down the hallway. The man in the white coat walked away, shaking his head. On a clip board, he jotted a note.
    "Patient continues to hallucinate family. Review treatment plan."
  7. Gannon

    Gannon Contributor Contributor

    Jan 15, 2007
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    Manchester, England
    Freedomsyours - Natural Beef, International

    It’s rumored that every night about forty people, employees of an industrial cleaning company, risk their lives to clean every inch of the exclusively stainless steel facility that I call my office. They use pressure washers rife with harsh chemical cleaning and sanitizing agents--spraying everything haphazardly. They have to disassemble many of our machines to clean thoroughly; they have to thrust their hands and arms into the grinder’s channel; they have to stand inside giant stainless steel vats while they drown in chemical fumes. In a less-than-frequent (but far-from-uncommon) incident, they surrender fingers, toes, arms, and legs to the sharp blades housed within. I’ve heard stories of pulmonary chemical burns, and that the vat has taken lives this way. My superiors tell me not to believe these rumors; they tell me that I should be thankful for the safety of my job; they tell me that I shouldn’t be concerned with what happens when the lights go off. The problem is, I’m more terrified by what happens here while the steel is still illuminated.

    The company I work for is called “Natural Beef, International.” It happens to be one of the largest meat distributers in the United States. The beef we butcher at our facility is considered natural by the USDA because the antibiotics our cows are fed from infancy technically occur in nature. Dishonesty, however, isn’t my primary concern. This too is a natural product; lies occur naturally when companies begin to appeal to the emotional concerns of their patrons. What terrifies me more than these lies is my curiosity. What do we butcher in addition to beef? Physically, I’ve already mentioned some of what’s involved: fingers and hands are regularly occurring incidents. Whether the incident be a small cut or the loss of an entire appendage, these incidents happen every day. That’s where I come in-- I’m a Local Incident Responder.

    Let me tell you a story:

    On April 12th, 2009 at our facility, an employee named Rosa reported an injury. She worked on the line at section 10. Here she trimmed excess fat from the fore-rib, a piece of beef in high demand for its succulent texture and flavor when roasted. On this particular day, Rosa had been running late and had neglected the honing of her very long and very sharp filet knives. Moreover, the facility itself had a corporate goal for the day that was unachievable at their conventional line speeds. Suffice it to say that the conditions were not in her favor--her knives were dulling at an alarming rate and she slipped. I don’t know whose fault it was.

    Rosa was pulled off the line a minute or two later to be addressed by an in-house medic. She lost one finger immediately, and another a few days later for fear of a bad infection. She also had a significant amount of nerve damage. The company told me that she could continue to receive the in-house medical correspondence, which to be honest isn’t exactly The Mayo Clinic, or she could be terminated. I administered her rights, but they didn’t hold much weight. The choice was more complicated for her, and it is for just about every line worker at the facility.

    Rosa was an illegal immigrant. She was recruited by the company and brought from South America to work. If she demanded her rights to adequate medical attention, I was to refer her to a superior. Obviously, she would be terminated. Here the terror ensues: termination for our employees doesn’t mean they have to find a new job--it means that the company, in an effort to protect their name and their interests, has to dispose of the incident. That’s what Rosa was: an incident. This incident sought the help of a medical professional.

    Nobody knows what happened to Rosa. At least, nobody knows for certain. My suspicion, and the suspicion of the other line workers, is that she was reported to ICE and deported to South America. While she was with us, what Rosa received four dollars and fifty cents an hour (she also sometimes worked twelve-hour-long shifts without overtime); what Rosa lost was a few fingers and the tactile response of the three remaining. When she risked the company’s secrecy, she was returned as damaged goods. My job means pretending that Rosa never existed. The other employees pretend too, for fear of their own mysterious disappearance.

    When workers demand their rights as a human beings, they are quickly disappeared by National Beef, International. I have spoken because they cannot. The terrifying thing about my job is that these incidents have become a regular occurrence, that these incidents are still somewhere on the margins of our own memories no matter how we try to dispose of them, and that the stories of each individual will continue to haunt us all for years to come. Rosa was just one of those incidents. Her story is one that must be forced to the margins of our own memories. She will always be the ghost that never was.
  8. Gannon

    Gannon Contributor Contributor

    Jan 15, 2007
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    Manchester, England
    emwinshi - World Revolves Around Me

    “I’m hurrying. I’m only a few blocks away. Just stall the meeting for a few more minutes” Sarah says, knowing she’s actually about ten miles from work. Rebecca tells her she’ll do what she can; Sarah hits her cancel call button. She throws the phone into the passenger seat and it bounces for cover under the miscellaneous pieces of junk mail that’s been accumulating for two weeks.

    She glances at herself in the rear view mirror noticing her bangs have dropped again. She reaches for her purse where she keeps enough beauty supplies to accommodate a small beauty salon. She grabs her portable can of hair spray and grips the steering wheel with her knees. Driving with her knees is her specialty. After all, everyone gets out of her way when she’s on the road, she always gets priority. The rear view mirror is just large enough for her to view her bangs, lopsided over her forehead. Using her left hand, she holds her hair and fires a couple squirts with her right hand. The residual spray falls into her eyes causing a slight burn. The can flies into the passenger seat, “God damn piece of crap cans, why can’t they make these things like they are supposed to be made!” she yells.

    Sarah reaches for her fresh cup of Starbucks knowing she needs that first sip of coffee to calm down. The coffee hits her tongue and she quickly swallows it. “Stupid ass people can’t even make a hot cup of coffee” she blasts as she slams the cup back into its dash board resting home.

    The light turns yellow just as she regains focus on the road. Her foot slams to the floor rapidly accelerating her through the red light.

    "Please no cops, please no cops", she thinks to herself.

    She glances at all corners as she passes through the intersection when the screeching of tires catches her attention. She snaps her head to the left and inches from her BMW is a medium sized blue Ford Taurus. Its tires acting as paintbrushes leaving strokes of black paint on the asphalt canvass. The smell of melted rubber fills the air perfectly complimenting the cold coffee and cheap hairspray. The driver’s eyes and face are dead with fear; he unpleasantly watches a two second movie featuring him in His Life, coming to a theater near you.

    “Watch where you are going, moron!” she yells to the driver still stunned by his brush with death.

    Sarah dashes in and out of traffic only to be stalled by another red light. “God damn it, drive faster and we won’t have to worry about red lights” she yells at the congestion. Unfortunate for her the traffic isn’t voice activated.

    The hidden cell phone vibrates. She rustles through the mounds of mail to find her life support system.

    "Are you almost here?", reads the text from Sam. Sarah throws the phone towards her purse. “Like you are always on time; I’ll be there when I get there” she says not expecting a reply from her passengerless car.

    Her tires squeal as she turns into the parking garage. The red and white mechanical one-armed guard blocks the entrance. “This security crap is ridiculous” she grumbles. Random pieces of mail start flying from her passenger seat as she searches frantically for her parking pass. The red lanyard peaks its way out from between three days of mail. She hooks and jerks just enough so that her catch doesn’t get away. The guard raises its arm as it recognizes the valid ID.

    Her parking spot is unusually close this particular morning, “Finally something good goes my way”. Most Mondays she has to park on the 4th level with the rest of the late risers. Her normal grumble is towards HR and how they should assign parking starting with her and then rolling out to everyone else. In her eyes this company would have failed four years ago if she wasn’t working here.

    The clatter of her high heels echo through the empty parking garage as she runs towards the elevator. She takes a quick glance at her reflection in the lobby door. Good enough. The elevator door is open; she squeezes through the opening just as the door begins to close. Hurry up elevator, she mumbles excitedly.

    18…19…20…21 Ding!

    The door opens and she rushes to the secretary, “Do you have my files?” Sarah demands. The secretary ignores her request, obviously immersed into a heated conversation with an upset client. She looks over the desk and sees her folder, “Never mind, so worthless” she grumbles heading towards the conference room, folder in hand.

    "Everyone call in sick", she thinks to herself as she notices the halls somewhat emptier than normal. The conference door is closed. She pushes the handle down slow and quietly thinking that if she doesn’t make any noise, she’ll be able to sneak in unnoticed. Ten people are gathered around the large circular white conference table. The projector is lit up flashing project updates on the front wall. She turns to the door to close it as silently as she can. The door shuts, no sound is made. She turns back around towards the conference table and everyone is gone. Empty seats pushed into place awaiting their next passenger. The white board is empty and projector is off. In the corner, near the coffee machine stands an older man wearing a simple white button down and pair of worn jeans. He turns towards Sarah, “Good morning.”

    “Damnit, where is everyone? Did I miss the meeting?” she asks somewhat confused. She throws the folder on the table and heads for the coffee machine. I must be tired, she thinks to herself.

    “No, you are right on time” he replies

    “Who are you? I don’t think I’ve seen you around” she asks. She grabs for a cup ignoring the fact that she thought she just seen a room full of people.

    “Here you go, three and three, right?” he says handing her a cup of fresh coffee.

    “Yeah, how did you know?” she questions. She takes the cup and takes the first sip. Her body relaxes as it does with every first sip.

    “I know all about you. You don’t know what’s going on, do you?” asks the old man

    Sarah looks at the man, sets her coffee down. “No, what happened? Did we lose the account?” she asks with a look of concern. She starts walking towards the door. Her first thought is to go ask Trisha.

    “Your employer is just fine” he says following behind her.

    “I’m going to go talk to Trisha” she says. She opens the door. “What the hell?!”

    She steps out of the office and onto a street corner. Smoke and debris float in the air as if they were a picture from newspaper. In the intersection a Blue Ford Taurus sits with its entire front end smashed. Pieces of plastic, metal, and splashes of liquid float around the car, motionless. The driver’s eyes and face are masked with fear. A white bag penetrates his steering wheel, partially inflated, as instructed when the front bumper is instantly removed. The Red BMW sits in midair, floating just a few feet off the ground, upside down. The driver’s side door appears as it should after a large chunk of metal flies into it traveling at 45mph. The driver’s hair, not as perfect as earlier that morning is now highlighted with red; lots of red. Cars are frozen in all directions. Some drivers reflect panic as they witness the inevitable. Others are staring at their radio, applying makeup, or talking on their cell phones.

    Sarah’s eyes go hollow when she looks at the driver of the BMW. She wishes it were her twin sister but knows that’s impossible for a single child. She’s that selfish. Her eyes fill with tears. “What….happened” she whispers. “Am I dead?” she turns to the old man.

    “You’re always in such a hurry. We figured we might as well get you to your final destination” he replies.

    “So, I’m a ghost?” she mumbles

    “Ghost? Dear, there are no such things as ghosts”

    “I don’t understand” she says. A tear rolls down her face.

    A door reappears behind the man. “You made it on time for your meeting” he says and turns and opens the door. Behind it is a blinding white light; calming and inviting. The warm glow dries her tear. She feels the light draw her in. A small smile breaks the fear that once resided on her face. The old man reaches out and grabs her hand. “Let’s finish that cup of coffee”.
  9. Gannon

    Gannon Contributor Contributor

    Jan 15, 2007
    Likes Received:
    Manchester, England
    Mallory - It Came from In the Walls

    March 10

    Dear Joe,

    How’s your ghost hunting going? Are you getting the inspiration you needed to write your novel? When you’re done, be sure to write a nice long thank-you letter to Uncle Dale for giving you the keys to his old vacation home. It’s one creepy place out there! With a writing station like that, I bet you’ll end up leagues ahead of Stephen King.

    Your Mom


    March 13

    Dear Mom,

    Thanks for your letter. This place sure is weird. Did you know some people say there used to be a serial killer living here? At least, that’s what the rumors here in town were when I told people where I was staying. But then I did some research at the library, and the killer never actually existed. So the ghost never was. But I still feel like the place is haunted anyway, crazy as it sounds. The door stuck a bit when I first got here: bad hinges, hard to open. But it’s been getting stiffer and stiffer. I’ll have to find some grease at a hardware store. Also, I’ve been hearing some noises late at night. Harsh breathing, and a pulsating heartbeat from somewhere inside the house. It’s like there’s a giant creature inside the walls. And sometimes I hear…shifting, a weird slurping sound like guts being moved around. It’s really scary at night. I haven’t even gotten any writing done. I don’t want this s**t on my mind. But I’ll be home soon…see you then.

    Love Joe.


    March 30

    Dear Joe,

    Please return the phone calls that I’ve made at least 20 times. I’m worried about you. My phone the other night at about 3 a.m., and the caller I.D. said it was the landline where you’re staying. But it wasn’t you. It was a twisted, distorted voice, like a deep growl with raspy tones over it. I’d have assumed it was a joke made in ill taste, but it was uttering words in a calculated, consistent language, a language full of cacophonous noises, not human. I’m scared. Call me.



    April 17

    Dear Mrs. Trudy Smith,

    I’m writing to you about your son Joe. Has he come home? There’s a disturbing growth all over the outside of the house he was staying at. I was sent over by local repair company to fix some problems with stiff doors, but now I don’t see a way in—and frankly, I wasn’t about to go in, because it would probably have killed me. A seething mass of gray, veiny tentacles covered the entire roof. The source seemed to be inside of the chimney. The veins trembled and pulsated, unlike anything I’d seen in my entire life. A heartbeat echoed from somewhere inside the house. Please give me call at 505-455-9090 to let me know Joe left and got home safe. I’m concerned.

    Respecfully concerned,
    Tom Rivers, Travers Home Repair Co.


    Note: Retrieved from the victim’s email inbox on April 29. Let me know if you have any luck figuring out what it means. No one from our unit has seen any evidence of said growth.
    Trudy –

    Are you out of town? I haven’t seen you outside in a week or so, so I figured you must be on a trip. Want me to water your yard or anything? Anyway, I think you might want to know that my husband noticed some gray slimy tendrils coming out of your chimney. It looks like a funky mold of some kind, you might want to call someone to fix it, even if you’re not home. It’s been growing fast.

    Hope you’re well,
  10. Gannon

    Gannon Contributor Contributor

    Jan 15, 2007
    Likes Received:
    Manchester, England
    Solar - Call it a Day

    It was a fine afternoon as the old man shuffled along the pavement. The sun hovered on the verge of plunging into pinks and oranges; you know, when the light deepens the late afternoon and casts a veil through which lawns appear draped in gold.

    He moved at a sciatica-wary pace, his weight on the hard curve of a walking stick kept him steady. He looked muddled, sniffing the air, wearing a frown as if he had lost his way. But he knew the area like a cabbie knows the knowledge, Christ, he’d lived there nearly fifty years, he ought to know.

    And he knew exactly where he was going too, it’s Friday for godsake, how could he not know the one day of leave from his pokey flat. A flat he worked his life in a factory to pay for. Though, back then, it was a sensible move. There’s no point paying rent all your life with nothing to show at the end. At least with a mortgage you get to own your home. And not only did it give him the satisfaction of being a homeowner, it gave him a sense of independence and proper-ness, a sense of becoming a real person and stepping onto the great stage of life.

    And back in those days, ten steps was easy; but he hadn’t the foresight to envision the day when a small set of stairs would morph into his enemy. The younger him couldn’t imagine a time when he’d be recovering from a hip operation, riddled with arthritis, suffering from incontinence and itchy varicose veins. Buying the flat had started out as a means to liberate himself from a tyranny of landlords; but now he’s an old man, it serves as a penultimate coffin, a dress rehearsal done in the spirit of procrastination or a dry run for those on the twilit verge but not quite ready to take the plunge. He braved the cement stairs once a week, despite knowing his fragility was such that one fall would probably shatter everything. The risk wasn’t a bother; either that or give up and be a vegetable.

    He would get to the bookmakers in time for the last day-races (cos anyone who’s anyone knows that’s when the mickey mouse runners pop up at large odds) and in time for the first few dog sprints of the night. The journey was painful and usually left him aching for days, but he drank the adrenaline charged atmosphere as though it was something temporary for the pain, so he could at least enjoy a small window of leisure.

    The bloke on the till – built like a brick outhouse, with pierced eyebrows and a tattoo of an electric guitar on his arm – always greeted the old man amiably.

    ‘How are yer me ol son? Feelin lucky?’ he’d say as the old man made his investment – usually a twelve bet combination exacta at twenty pence. He liked the management too; they were kind to the lost souls who clutched square slips and pored over race-cards.
    And if that was the icing, then tea and coffee on-the-house was the cherry. Oh, and there was Pete the ex-docker with raspy lungs. ‘S’my asbestos,’ he’d say after hacking phlegm on a tissue.

    He didn’t mind Pete, even though his tips were lousy and his trackside wisdom somewhat questionable. The old man could tolerate ignorance for the sake of some good honest banter.

    He liked the drama of each race be it flat, chase or hurdle; the commentator; the epic names; the excited punters, ‘Git up there, gorn; git in there my son; gorn na, gorn na,’ as if trying to gee-on geldings via telepathic communication; and more often than not, the mockney cheers fizzled out. Followed by a flurry of crumpled betting slips that swamp the floor in front of the bins. The old man loved it all and wouldn’t give up his bookie time for anything in the world.

    But today he felt odd.
    A sudden urge came over him as he made his way to the high street along the main road. He wanted to see the house him and Gill would’ve lived in after they married; so, without much forethought, he turned left at Oakham Avenue, a typical English road lined with semi-detached houses and neat front gardens.

    He wandered along at a snail’s pace, expecting to catch a glimpse of his dream home. But it wasn’t there, in fact, he’d forgotten where he was going, what street number, what it looked like even. He trembled and doubted his own faculties, couldn’t say for certain if this was the right road, so he stopped for a while.

    Across the street, a woman appeared from a house, a lovely place with trendy red bricks and a plush side extension. Perhaps not the exact house, but very similar. When she turned, his heart jumped furiously, his knees wanted to buckle but he kept a firm hold of the walking stick. He swore it was Gill, or a spectre at the very least; because Gill was a pretty redhead, with a foxy figure and full lips, just like the woman over there.

    He drifted into a reverie, he was back at the moment he met her for the first time; and then remembered being on one knee at a restaurant, eloquently declaring his love and popped the question like a vintage wine cork, and the way she fizzed like champagne.
    ‘Yes! Yes! Yes! Of course I will!’

    And their perfect church wedding where she was quite possibly the finest looking woman on earth, and he was the strapping, handsome, successful man, strong and nourishing; and how they made love sweetly for the first time; and on their second night honeymooning they drank cocktails in a smoky bar where Nina Simone just happened to be scheduled; they danced to Wild is the Wind, a song to be their soulful melody for all time; her rose perfume drove him wild, her clear blue eyes sparkled as if they were wellsprings running to the heart, and they slowly moved in for the kiss.

    ‘What ya gawping at old man?’
    The woman across the road had caught him staring longingly. He fell back to earth in an arthritic pile and looked to the floor, ashamed by his momentary lapse. He wanted to say ‘I were just daydreaming, madam’, but he didn’t believe in his own voice and hadn’t the courage to speak up.

    He would’ve walked away, back towards town, and would’ve tried to put the old ghosts to rest. But he caught a whiff on the air, an industrial tang, heavy and thick, with a consoling weight that felt like anchorage, something to root him in the ground. He carried on Oakham Avenue, sniffing the air as he went along.

    The north end of Oakham Avenue joined Walnut Road. The pavement was bigger and shaded by trees. A section of the road had just been resurfaced, the tarmac still warm on the air. Workmen, in high visibility overalls, were packing up for the day, loading tools onto the back of a yellow flatbed lorry.

    Of course, it was different in the old man’s day; they didn’t have sophisticated auto-pumps and electronic boiler-tanks to heat the tar. Having said that, he did recognise some of the equipment. The long black rod connected to grey piping looked pretty similar to the old tar lances.

    He drifted into another reverie. This time he was a young man. Eighteen years old and keen to help rebuild his country after the devastation of war.
    He secured a job resurfacing roads with a small crew. The gaffa, a fierce Irishman, went by the name Douglas McAdams. But most people knew him as ‘Dog’ or ‘Bulldog’. He had that look about him: big tough head, body like a stone bollard and shovel like hands with huge red knuckles. Just after the Great War his uncle died of flu, and Dog inherited a horse drawn wagon, coal-fired tar boiler, bucket, barrow and rake. Ever since then, he’d been up and down the country surfacing and resurfacing roads. During the Second World War he earned a reputation for getting the job done quickly and effectively, and he’d boast about how he fought the Germans with his tar lance. Though, he clung to the old ways like a man may cling to his hat in stormy weather. While modernists waved their wands and flashed their shiny new inventions, he was proud to be one of the last crews to rely on horse and coal power.

    The pay was decent, but the work was long and arduous. By the second week, the young man had the laborious task of spreading tarred chips of limestone with an iron rake, as the barrowman poured the hot dressing and the bucketman filled the gaps. The awkward stretch, the coal-fire, the smouldering coke, the molten tar all made the job painful and stifling. Even with sweaty gauntlets his fingers blistered.

    At least I can lunch in the open air, the young man thought. He finished his ham roll and allowed himself to admire the quaint village, a few Georgian houses, some oak trees, a common, a butcher’s and a baker’s.

    Then his heart jumped and his hands quivered. They’re here again. Two lasses, one with a basket of apples, the other with blackberries; and again they stand by the bench at the front of the common, and with curious eyes watch the grimy workmen. He’d been thinking about the pretty red haired girl all morning, and now his legs wobbled, his throat tightened at the sight of her. She waved and smiled; he responded with a cautious nod and looked to the ground.

    ‘Aren’tcha gonna chirps her then? Tree days running she gives yer the wink and tree times yer snub the poor lass,’ Dog remarked.
    ‘I’ll do it tomora.’
    ‘Ah t’mora t’mora, yer said that yesterday.’
    ‘I will, you’ll see – tomora is the day.'
    ‘Son, no use living for t’mora, yer gotta take yer chances when they fresh and hot, like that tar dressing over there.’

    The young man hadn’t the courage to admit he was a coward and that taking chances was the thing he dreaded most. Later that night he lay awake thinking about the pretty red haired girl. He imagined what it’d be like to kiss her full red lips. He felt certain that love had truly struck his heart, and berated himself for being such a wimp. He made a personal vow that tomorrow really would be the day; no more dithering, no more cowardice, no more spineless wobbling.

    The next morning he whistled a merry tune as he rode to work. Today I am Prince Charming, he told himself. At lunchtime he ate his sandwich and disguised the jitters with a cool, calm mien. But the girls didn’t show up. No panic. They’d turn up eventually, and Dog would wink and say ‘Gorn son, get in there,’ and he would swagger over like a confident prince to sweep her away with his irresistible charm.

    However, the hours went by and come five o’clock there was still no sign of her. The young man asked Dog if they had any more roads to do in this area.

    ‘Nah son. Next week we’ll be other side of the river.’
    ‘S’matter kid?’
    ‘It don’t matter.’
    ‘S’that gal aint it?
    ‘Yeh, was gonna chirps her today. But she didn’t -’
    ‘Yeh, just m’luck.’
    ‘Toldya kid, chances are like carrots, get em when they’re fresh, else they’ll spoil.’

    He couldn’t help staring at the grizzly scar on Dog’s forearm. Glistening with sweat, it served as a warning: Tar is dangerously hot, and the wind’s your enemy.

    The old man examined his fingers; the tips brown from years of pipe smoke and teabag squeezing. He looked for the ring, the one token of marriage that could put his mind at rest.

    No ring there, no mark nor trace of a gold band whatsoever.
    He couldn’t stop the overflow of tears. I’m old and foolish, he said to himself. Foolish for not taking Dog’s advice all em years ago; foolish for squandering opportunities; foolish for thinking that Gill is anything more than a hopeless dream. But a fork still touched his heart. The sobs grew wetter and louder.

    ‘You ok mate?’ A workman spotted the small elderly gentleman crying on the pavement. The old man wanted to reply ‘No! I’m not ok. I spent the best part of my years living for a fantasy future that could never be, and now I’ll spend the rest of my time longing for a past that never was.’
    But he hadn’t the courage. He nodded and signalled in a manner that suggested he was fine. He wiped his nose with a cotton hankie and found he’d lost all appetite for betting.

    He turned in the direction of the cement steps, and in doing so, resembled an autumn leaf clinging to a twig, knowing full well that one more gust would sweep him away.
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