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Ludwig
05-05-2010, 11:59 AM
Ok, I'm thinking of entering a short ghost story competition and this is what I've come up with. Any opinions and criticisms would be GREATLY appreciated because my inner circle like me too much to say anything negative.

A Very English Haunting
Inspired by Sum

Simon pulled the cardboard bed sheets up to his unshaven chin and tried to close his eyes. He had assumed that atrocious weather conditions would stop people driving so it would be nice and quiet. But considering that he was going to sleep out under a bridge because he had no way to get home he realised that he shouldn’t assume anything about life. He rubbed the snow off his eyes that had dastardly swept underneath the bridge to attack him from the side. Thankfully the copious amounts of booze that he had guzzled was still managing to give him a tiny semblance of warmth in the pit of his belly and he fell asleep wondering if anyone at work had even noticed his absence today.

When he awoke neither a concrete ceiling, nor a hobo trying to steal his few possessions greeted him. Instead, he saw a blinding white light that seemed to be all encompassing. He tried to stand up, but his hung-over body rejected the idea, with almost projectile consequences. Instead he crawled around, eventually finding a wall he trusted enough to help him up onto his shaky legs. He heard a door open behind him and spun around. Blurs began to form shapes and he saw a young nurse by a thick brown door that was definitely not there before.

She looked at her clipboard and said “Mr Benard, would you come with me?”

“Where am I?” He asked before scrunching up his face at the smell of his words before seeing the nurse turn around and walk out of the door. He stumbled after her, almost running into her petite frame when she turned to face him.

“Please continue through to processing’ She said in an uninterested voice as she opened another not there previously door.

“Is this a hospice or something?” he mumbled in embarrassment while walking through into a room with garish coloured carpet tiling. “Because I’m not a homeless person” but when he look back there was only a blank wall.

He headed over to the other end of the room to a desk with RECEPTION written on it and a slightly podgy man sleeping with his feet up on the desk, his heavy snoring rustling an autumn forest beard. Simon made a guttural noise in his throat but the man didn’t stir from his slumber, so he overcame his English sensibilities and took drastic action, tapping the bell on the man’s desk. The man awoke with a jerk, causing his delicately balanced chair to slide out from underneath him as he toppled to the ground with an impressive and tenorly “nooooo!” Eventually a gruff hand landed on the desk and with a biblical scowl the man pulled himself back up.

“Wha’dya want?” The reception worker roared, knocking out all of Simon’s bravado.

“I’m sorry, but I have no idea where I am, I went to bed last night and woke up here with a goddamn…”

“Sir please mind your language,” the bearded man said curtly. Simon realised he wasn’t making a good impression so he tried a friendly strategy and read the man’s nametag.

“Peter, I have a pretty… spiffy headache. Is this a hospice or something?

The man’s scowl softened and he let out a gentle chuckle, then, with the arm gestures of man who deals with a lot of drunks he said, “Look sir, I realise that you’re under a lot of stress, how about you just take a seat and wait for your turn.”

Simon began to summon the courage to correct the man, as there was definitely nothing here except the man’s desk, until he heard the banter of a crowd and turned around to see a foyer full of people. Some were sitting patiently, some pacing, some even arguing with each other. He must have had a worse night than he thought, and as a man passed him fully dressed up in a toga and laurel reef he decided that perhaps it was best that he was checked for alcohol poison. He took a seat and quickly fell asleep.

He awoke to the stern nudging of a medieval looking monk who wasn’t amused that Simon had been using his shoulder as a pillow. He apologised and repositioned himself, waiting for his turn to be called. In the distance he saw a man who looked suspiciously like Beethoven having a rather intense argument with a very short man who looked suspiciously like Napoleon. But foreign languages were never Simon’s strong point and he slumped further into his seat to try and block them out, before looking at his watch and noticing that five hours had passed.

Now Simon was very good at queuing, if there was an exam for it he would pass it with flying colours, he would happily wait patiently in an ER, even if it meant going after a man with a jippy ear when he had a machete sticking out of his neck. There comes a point however, where a wait is just too long and a person snaps. It was fair to say that Simon had snapped as he headed back to the reception.

“Excuse me, I’ve been here a very long time, do you know how long the wait is? Do I even have to be here?” Peter looked up as Simon continued, “Because I would much rather be at home.”

“Well obviously you can’t do that sir” said Peter sternly.

Simon was never a good public speaker, but he found his voice to be overpowering everyone else’s in the room “Why not? What’s going on? Why can’t I go home?” The crowd behind him went silent.

Peter leant forward, “Wait, you don’t know what’s going on?”

“No, does it look like I do?”

“Sir, you’re in purgatory”.

“I’ve never heard of that hospice. I’m not normally in these situations”.

“No sir, this is PUR-GAT-ORY, the place before heaven. You died in your sleep last night from hypothermia”.

Simon stood dumbfounded before mumbling, “So these other people aren’t from a fancy dress party?” Peter shook his head and after a long silence Simon asked with a slight air of hopefulness, “Does this mean that I can see my parents?” Peter typed into a computer, which returned with a depressed ping sound.

“I’m afraid not, they left just as you arrived. Through that door to the side” and Peter pointed to an inconspicuous grey door.

“What’s through there?” Simon asked.

“Nobody knows, people don’t return to tell us. Look sir I suggest that you go and sit down until it’s your turn, I don’t think that it will be long”.

“Well how will I know when it’s my turn?”

“Did Gabriel not explain any of this to you?” Simon shook his head and Peter sighed before adopting the monotonous voice of a person who has repeated a phrase far more often than they would like, “You must stay in Purgatory waiting to be processed until you have been forgotten by the mortal world, only then will your soul be clear enough to pass through”.

“So are all these ancient looking people famous? That man is really Beethoven?”

“Yeah, poor guy, he’s deaf so we can’t explain what’s going on and none of us can write German.”

“Well can you tell me how many people I have left remembering me? My family are all dead and I doubt anyone at work has even noticed that I’m not there anymore.”

“If it will get you to leave me alone so I can get back to my paper work” and Peter punched some more buttons on the keyboard. “You have only one person left remembering you”.

“Can I ask who it is?” Smiled Simon in the hope that it would fill Peter with such joy that he would cross mountains just to help him.

Instead Peter flatly said “No. I’ve helped you out enough; you shouldn’t even know how many people are left. Names and such are kept in the vault behind me and even I’m not supposed to go in there.” A deflated Simon gave his thanks and walked away. Peter grumbled and looked back down to his paperwork, but it wasn’t long before he caught the shape of the annoying new guy back in his peripheral vision. He threw down his pen and looked up, before yelping as he realised that the new guy was running at him full pelt. He cowered as the new guy jumped up to the desk and used it to vault himself towards the door.

Simon wasn’t used to traveling through the air, especially in an office environment, but he thought that it was going pretty well. Then he realised that he was leaning too far forward and that his head was going to be the battering ram that breached the door. Regardless of being dead he knew this would hurt.

Ludwig
05-05-2010, 11:59 AM
The noises of gasps and shouts disappeared behind him as if down a plug hole and when he opened his eyes he wasn’t greeted by a dusty army of filing cabinets, but a high street bustling with people. Quite clearly the previous events must have been some sort of drunken episode and the splitting headache merely from a hangover. He tasked himself with finding someone responsible before he blacked out again.

This theory was quickly reputed when a burly man with more shopping bags than brain cells walked straight through him, leaving Simon with a strange sickly feeling. He attempted to move but found that he didn’t even have a body, he was merely a floating idea, or perhaps some eyes, he couldn’t find a mirror to check. With great will he focused his brainpower on creating a form that roughly resembled him. It was exhausting work and he couldn’t be bothered to finish off his legs, they didn’t seem too important, especially as he wasn’t the spectre of a particularly leggy blonde.

Simon floated down the street, looking in the shop windows at the products he thought he needed in life, and while wondering why he hadn’t ended up in a vault he noticed a little path that separated two huge department stores. It seemed to be as invisible to the general populace as he was, but Simon knew it well, because at the end was a little coffee shop where he’d spent much of his angry early adult hood hanging out with the other disenfranchised. It was there that he had met his first love, a beautiful and opinionated girl who had opened his eyes to bigger wrongs than strict parents. Simon couldn’t help but take a peak inside.

He passed through the door; his appiritioned nose didn’t have to be that complex to catch the smell of oat milk that soaked the walls. The place had hardly changed at all except for the faces of the politician’s on their anti-capitalist posters, though the one about Margaret Thatcher was still there, though with added permanent maker eye-patch. The cafe was empty but when he heard footsteps his metaphorical heart skipped a beat, but only a young teen with pins through his ears came out from the kitchen. It was stupid for him to have assumed that she would still be around; perhaps it was the old man at the newspaper stand who was carrying on his memory for some strange reason. But then a doorbell chimed behind him, and in she walked, her clothes were baggier, more modest, and faint lines under her eyes had formed but she still exuded the inner glow of a person who embraced life where ever she found it.

“I cleaned up round the back,” shouted the teen-punk.

“Thanks Dave. You can head off now. I’ll just look after the shop until closing.”

“Yes!” cried Dave as he quickly hugged her and ran out the door with a “Thank you April”.

She made herself a cup of chai before sitting down at a table, and Simon did his best to sit opposite her, which isn’t easy without physical matter. He thought about how it was typical she had taken over the café, this was her haven, the headquarters of her own little war against normal society.

He longed to talk to her, to see how she had been, and as these wants meshed with the memories of their time together he found himself smiling like he hadn’t smiled in years. He began to create a corporeal form for himself, oh the conversations they could have! Unfortunately Simon hadn’t taken into consideration the opinions a woman might have, if she were sitting alone in her humble café and a ghost, in the form of her ex-lover appeared, grinning manically. Her scream would have given a banshee a run for her money and she fell to the floor. This wasn’t the reaction Simon had been hoping for and he rushed to April’s now limp body, but couldn’t concentrate enough to keep himself in the physical realm, and his hands passed straight through her body. Then he felt a little tap on his shoulder.

Back in the waiting room Peter had resorted to desperate measures, fending off the baying hordes of the dead with a toilet mop. “Away!” He yelled, “You can’t go back there!”

“Why not?” they demanded in various languages, but Peter couldn’t come up with anything more satisfying than spiel about regulations. When he spotted Napoleon sitting on Beethoven’s shoulders and trying to organise the crowd to overrun reception he knew he had to resort to drastic measures, the boss hated it when he had to come interfere with patient dissatisfaction. He shouted at the dispassionate nurse Gabriel to bring out the crowd control.

Simon cowered underneath the apparition of his furious ex. “At what point did you think haunting me would be a good plan?” She yelled.

“I wasn’t haunting you” he tried to explain, but quickly realised that this wasn’t a two way conversation.

“You killed me, you do realise that don’t you?”

“Yes, I’m really sorry about that”.

April sat down on the counter and said with a sigh, “It’s ok, I wasn’t doing much anyway.”

“So no hard feelings?” Simon asked, but quickly wished that he hadn’t.

“YOU JUST KILLED ME” she roared, “What do you think?” This time Simon kept his mouth shut and the café was swept with the kind of uncomfortable silence that you will hopefully never have to deal with, but it was almost as unbearable as the awkwardness of conversation between two people who’ve worn the same clothes to a party.

“You know, I never managed to get my face that pale in all the time I was a Goth” she remarked at her corpse, she was always the type to crack a joke even at the worst of times. “So what happened to you?” she asked.

“I finally cracked from my dead end office job, went on a bender and died from hypothermia last night sleeping out under a bridge.”

“Savage” she added without much emotion. “And I was thinking of trying to get back in touch with you.”

“Really, why?”

She shrugged, “I just thought that it would be nice to catch up, I wasn’t going to stay angry at you forever, water under the bridge and all that.” She smiled at him before adding, “But this hasn’t really improved my opinion of you” and stuck out her tongue.

Before Simon could say anything the doorbell chimed and in walked Dave, obviously having forgotten something. He quickly spotted April’s body and ran to her side, frantically looking around for an indication of what to do.

April gasped and hid her head against Simon’s shoulder, either ghost’s had physical bodies in relation to each other, or April just hadn’t forgotten how to be human yet. “I wish he didn’t have to see this, he is such a nice kid.”

“Hey he is doing a good job,” Simon said in the most comforting voice he could manage, “ringing an ambulance and everything.” It didn’t seem to be putting her at ease so he began to tell her about the waiting room, how she was the only one who remembered him, and how he heroically vaulted off a desk to escape. It seemed to help, she even laughed at the thought of his head smashing against a door.

They sat looking at each other, so content in their own little place between the living and the dead that they didn’t take much notice when paramedics rushed in, pulling out equipment and taking charge of the situation. “I’m glad you didn’t forget me,” said Simon. April was never a fan of cheesy lines and instead leant in and kissed him softly, Simon held the side of her face in his palm and kissed her back, not a kiss of passion but of companionship.

In the background a woman shouted “CLEAR” before electrocuting April’s body, causing her ghostly form to flicker. “I’ll see you on the other side” said Simon softly and with the sound of another electric shock she disappeared. He turned and watched her body spring to life, gasping for air. Dave wrapped her in a blanket and eventually the paramedics led them into their ambulance. Simon watched them drive off in silence and thought about heading back.

He found himself once again in the waiting room, but now the only light provided was from a projector playing Casablanca on a wall. Everyone watched it in rapture except Napoleon who was openly weeping on Beethoven’s shoulder. Simon heard Peter calling him over in hushed tones “You have caused me no small amount of paper work” he whispered sternly, “I hope it was worth it, now just go sit down. If I hear a peep from you, so help me!” “Sorry” replied Simon meekly and he sat at the back. He had never seen Casablanca before so he wiped the faint remains of ectoplasm from his lips and got comfortable.

spaceSuicide
05-08-2010, 06:26 PM
Very well-written, good job. Enter it!

Sputnik
05-09-2010, 10:54 AM
I think this is an amazing idea! I love Bethoven and Napoleon being there, having an argument (or watever) lol :]
Love the story, and I think it was very well written.

Ludwig
05-09-2010, 04:48 PM
Thanks for your kind words both of you, it means a lot because I'm not very confident with my writing yet.