Saturday, January 5, 2013

A Job To Do (Ghost story)

[Originally posted in a place that apparently no longer exists.  It was, basically, a test to see if I could write an entire story, beginning to end, because I'm so used to writing fragments that I wasn't sure I could.]

Four bodies lay on the floor, eventually a ghost got out of one of them, slowly standing up and shaking off the aches and pains that had belonged to his body while he did, “Well,” he said, “I think that went well.”

A ghost rolled from another body, getting first to her knee, then standing from there. “Yeah.”

The ghost in the third body barely pushed itself free of it, and remained laying face up on the floor. “In case you geniuses haven't noticed yet, we're dead.”

“I did kind of...” the male ghost started.

“It happens. So what?” the standing female ghost said.

“End of our lives. Kind of a big deal,” She sat up. “Don't you think?”

“We've got a job to do, Jane,” the standing female ghost said.

“Our commission ended with our lives, Chloe,” Jane said while getting to her feet.

“So you're just going to give up?” Chloe asked.

“I'm not saying that. I'm just saying that we could take a moment to appreciate the fact that we just... kinda... died. It seems worth reflecting on.”

“Ok, you do that, I'm going to see where the hell Daniel got off to.”


Chloe found Daniel standing over the fourth body.

“I can't wake him up,” Daniel said.

“That's because he's still alive,” Chloe said.


Chloe pointed at Micheal’s chest which was rising and falling, consistent with breathing.

“How could anyone survive that?” Daniel asked.

Chloe shrugged, “He did. Does it matter?”

Daniel's words came quickly and nervously, “I did make sure to make him a beneficiary on my life insurance, right?”

Chloe said, “Yes”

“And in my will?”


“And he knows where all the safe-houses are?”



“Look, your boyfriend is going to be fine, so take a moment, calm down, and refocus. We have work to do.”

“He wasn't my boyfriend. I mean... we never.”

“So much the better, he can get together Jake, the annoying love triangle will be short circuited before it even started, they'll live happily ever after and probably name their first kid after you.”

“What if it's a girl?”

“Danielle is a beautiful name. Now, are you ready to get on with the mission?”

“I guess, I thought Mike would be with us-”

“Don't pity the survivor!” Chloe near shouted. “Sorry for the volume, but be serious here. He lived. How is that anything but a good thing?”

“I guess you're right.”

“I am right.”

“Where's Jane?”

“She's currently reminiscing about her life.”

“What possible purpose could that serve?”

“I'll answer that when you tell me why you were disappointed that Mike wasn't dead.”

That shut up Daniel and soon the three had a meeting about where to go from there.


“Just, you know, run through the wall,” Daniel said.

Jane asked, “How am I supposed to do that?”

“You just do it,” Chloe said.

Jane asked, “If it's that easy to move through a solid object why can't I just drop through the floor.”

“The reason that you run is so that you can take several steps to get up to speed,” Daniel said.

“And no one of those steps exerts as much force as you'll be putting on the wall,” Chloe said.

“Because if you did direct as much force downward, in a single impact, as we're telling you to put forward, you would go through the floor,” Daniel said.

“One of you is going to go first, right?” Jane asked.

“Yes,” the other two flatly answered together.


Chloe punched her finger into the keypad, “It's not fair.”

“What's not fair?” Jane asked.

“If it can exert a force on me-”

“And it can,” Daniel said.

“Then shouldn't I exert an equal and opposite force on it?” Chloe asked.

“You're expecting Newtonian physics to apply to the afterlife?” Jane asked.

Daniel said, “This shouldn't come as any surprise t-”

“It doesn't!” Chloe shouted.

“Then why the frustration?” Jane asked.

“Because I know the combination to this keypad.”


Daniel said, “If Jeff catches us-”

Chloe interrupted, “Can we call him something else?”

“Why?” Daniel asked. “That's his name.”

“I just have trouble taking it seriously,” Chloe said.

Jane said, “Yeah, it doesn't sound evil enough.”

“It's just... Jeff,” Chloe said. “It's like some random person you meet at a boring convention. Probably with a name-tag: 'Hi, I'm Jeff.'”

“And then you think that what you'd be doing is commiserating with him over how annoying the damn name-tags are.” Jane said. “Not stopping him from taking over the world.”

“Well what would you like to call him?” Daniel asked.

“The Evil Overlord?” Chloe offered.

“Ghost-thing?” Jane said, and the two began alternating possible titles:

“Necromaniacal windbag?”

“Doctor bad?”


“He who shall not be named.”

“Lest we snicker.”

Daniel said, “I, personally, think that people would surrender to The Dread Pirate Westley, but whatever. If Jerkface catches us...”


It was an ordinary window, a thing any one of them could have broken easily, had they been alive. Perhaps even by accident. But it was an ordinary window lightly carved with intricate runes, and that meant that to them it was unbreakable.

“So much for this being easier with us being dead,” Jane said.

“If we hadn't been ghosts we never would have made it nearly this far so just because one single solitary fucking thing would have been easier for the living does-”

Chloe said, “Daniel.”

“What?” Daniel asked.

“Shut up,” Chloe said calmly. She turned to Jane, “Not a word.”

For a moment they were all silent, then Chloe asked, “Now can we deal with this like civilized people?” The other two nodded. “We can see our objective, now how do we get there?”

“I've got it!” Chloe said.

“Got what?” Jane asked, half annoyed, correctly predicting it wouldn't be a solution to the present problem.

Daniel had yet to realize that and listened in anticipation as Chloe said, “A name. We'll call him, 'The evil one.'”

“Yeah, that's real helpful,” Daniel said.

“I like it,” Jane said, her mood considerably brighter.


The three looked around the laboratory, various equipment from who-knew-where custom modified in ways never intended, work clearly done by someone who had the aesthetic sense of a b-movie villain and roughly equivalent aspirations.

It was more or less what they expected. Now all that remained was to figure out, exactly, what it all was and what it might be intended to do. Computers, stacks of servers, dissected electron microscopes, lasers torn from CD-burners and then covered in archaic glyphs, mirrors and magnifiers. The place was a mess of possibilities and just as the three were starting to come to some conclusions the evil one interrupted them.

Chloe, Daniel, and Jane all turned from what they were looking at in shock at the sound of a door opening. The entire plan had been built around the fact that the evil one was to be away from the lab at this time.

“Come now,” the evil one said, “You don't really think you'd have been able to get into my lab this easily if I hadn't wanted you to?”

Daniel said, “Well I don't know Jeff-”

“We agreed not to call him that,” Chloe said.

Daniel rolled his eyes, or the ghostly image that simulated eyes now that he no longer had any such fleshy orbs, “I've never thought you were exactly a master of base security.”

“Oh but this is all part of the plan. Everything is going exactly as I intended for it go-”

“Yay, it's all as you've foreseen Palaptine,” Chloe said. “But if you'd watched to end of the movie you'd have noticed that Vader throws you down a pit and you explode.”

“He's already dead,” Jane said.

“Yeah, about that, who offed you?” Daniel asked.

“It was part of the plan,” the evil one said, irritation clear in his explanation. “I did it myself.” When that failed to impress the three, he repeated, “This is all part of the plan.”

Chloe looked at Daniel and said a mocking, “Yada, yada yada,”

“Right down to where you're standing!” The evil one shouted. Then he pulled two levers.

Glyphs lit up. Magic happened. Daniel and Chloe were transported into giant glass tubes at the walls of the room. As with all the other glass they'd encountered, the tubes had been etched with glyphs that would prevent any ghost from breaking it.

The two quickly discovered that the tubes were, effectively, ghost traps, with little elbow room, and no space to do anything but remain standing. Very effective ghost traps based on how quickly they discovered that attempts to escape would be fruitless.

Daniel wondered if the thinness of the glass was a result of mocking them, intended to send a message, 'If you were alive this would be no barrier at all,' or if it was a reflection of Jeff, for whatever the group may have decided he still thought of the evil one as Jeff, being cheap. Thinner glass meant less actual glass, and so, presumably, a lower price.

Chloe decided that it was a perfect time to start meditating.

Jane looked uneasily at a third glass tube, large enough to fit another human or its ghost, also at one of the walls of the room. Seemingly intended for the same purpose.

The evil one, significantly calmer and less agitated, took the moment to explain, “I let you get this far because I plan to use you. I always have. My plans have always required some ghosts beyond myself. Why waste time creating or recruiting them when I knew that they would come to me?

“I allowed you into my sanctum,” Daniel rolled his ghostly eyes at the use of that word and found that, now that the wasn't limited by his body, he could roll them further than ever before. He amused himself by looking out the back of his head, “because I wanted you here anyway. If I'd tried to bring you by force, you'd have resisted every step of the way. But this way...

“By letting you think you were infiltrating, you delivered yourself to me with no fuss whatsoever.”

Daniel tried to make a Get Smart reference, but only made it as far as, “At this very moment,” before realizing that the enchanted glass only allowed sound to pass one way. “How about two cops in a row boat?” he muttered, defeated.

Chloe sank deeper into meditation.

Jane nervously asked, “Didn't you miss one of us?”

“Oh no, my dear,” The evil one said in an attempt to sound friendly and disarming that only made Jane feel more threatened and uneasy. “That,” he gestured to the third ghost trap, “Was for your compatriot who didn't make it this far. No need to worry, far greater things await you.”

“Like what?”

“The reason that it was so vital that your team was sent was you, always you. You see my plans call for a pure soul.”

“Define pure,” Jane said, trying to maintain the distance between herself and the evil one as he sauntered toward her. Mentally filing away the fact that people who saunter cannot be trusted. Then she amended that to: 'Ghosts who saunter are, based on anecdotal data, perhaps more likely to be evil than those who simply walk.'

“Have you never met a religion? Purity is always sexual in nature.”

“You've met the wrong religions,” a hint of anger flavored Jane's voice, everyone always assumed their own experience was universal. It seldom was. She was in the process of amending it to, 'Almost everyone,' when he spoke again.

“No, it's very clear. Purity is measured in sexual terms.”

“So I'm here for, what? Virgin sacrifice?”

“Nothing of the sort. Those two will be sacrificed,” the evil one said, gesturing to Jane's friends. His tone indicating that he didn't think it would bother her in the least. “For you there is a much grander purpose and I've been watching you for a long time to make sure you're the right one to fulfill that purpose. A mere virgin would never do.”

The evil one typed something into a keyboard. Jane took special note of how he was able to move the keys. He was able to move the keys, just as earlier he had been able to pull the levers that sent Daniel and Chloe into captivity. Just like the glass would stop a ghost as though it were a physical object. She filed the information away and waited for it to become useful.

The evil one continued, “Whosoever looks at another with lust in one's heart, it is as though they have committed adultery. So you see, virgins are hardly a standard of purity. I needed someone truly pure. You are that person and you will be elevated by my plans to the level of a-”

Jane struggled to maintain her composure. “First, you butchered that bible quote,” she said almost shaking. “Second,” Jane lost her cool, “THIS IS ALL ABOUT THE FACT I'M ASEXUAL!?”

The evil one stopped moving.

“I can see that your time amoung the impure souls has caused you to disparage your purity,” he said, “but-”

“Oh no,” Jane said, her volume lower but her anger just as evident. “I don't in the least disparage the fact I'm an asexual person. I'm good with it. I accept it, I wouldn't have it any other way and I get pissed off when people try to push me into something else but you've based your plans for me on that alone. You've reduced me to a single trait and that is bullshit!” Disconnected from a physical body, Jane didn't need breathe to fuel her voice, once again rising, yet she did anyway. “I am asexual, but that's not all I am you piece of shit. I am so many other things too. I'm a harmonica player, did you know that? Did it factor into your planning out my life for me?

“I'm a friend. I'm a fan of high low anaconda, I like my ice-cream melted, I vote for the Green Party. Did you know any of those things?

“I am not Asexual Person, I am Jane Dob-”

The evil one interrupted, “You are clearly broken.”

Jane felt the rage boil even higher at his statement, but she pushed it away. She'd had her chance to shout. Now it was time to act. She just had to figure out how.

“Your time with the lesser beings has corrupted your mind,” the evil one said, “Even as your soul maintained its purity.” He picked up something, it didn't look nice. “This is unfortunate, but not entirely unanticipated. Preparations have been made.” He began to approach Jane again, this time it wasn't a saunter and the menace was far beyond the anecdotal level.

“Aren't you wondering why we let ourselves get captured so easily?” Jane said in a calm conversational tone.

Daniel spun his eyes to face front.

Chloe began to bring herself out of meditation.

The evil one said, “What?” with a tone that demonstrated a complete lack of comprehension. He didn't even notice he had stopped moving.

“Getting those two in those tubes,” Jane pointed at Daniel and Chloe, “Didn't it seem just a little too simple?” Jane paused, and made sure her voice stayed totally calm, totally in control. Totally unafraid. She even tried to inject some amusement, “Didn't you wonder why your plan went so incredibly smoothly?”

“What are you getting at?” the evil one tried to hide his fear behind annoyance.

“We had no play. We had nothing to go on. We wanted information, and you've given all we could ever ask for.”

“You've learned nothing,” the evil one had nothing left but defensiveness. His tone made that much clear. “You don't even know what I need a pure sole for.”

“I don't need to,” Jame said casually. “You've made this lab such that a ghost can use the keyboards.” She pressed down on a key of the keyboard she stood nearest too. “That's enough.

“Before we were in the lab we didn't even know if a ghost agent would be able to interact with anything. Now we know that we can interact with everything that matters. It's all we could have ever asked for.”

“That means nothing!” The evil one hadn't meant to shout. He hadn't meant to let on how much he needed to believe that statement to be true. He hadn't meant to show how close he was to fear or how worrying the possibility that he had played into someone else's plan was. “My systems are all password protected,” he said, more for reassurance than to provide information. “You could try out combinations for the next billion years and never break my encryption,” he said, his arrogance returning. “You'll learn nothing,” he said, having pulled himself out of fear. “You can't access my files.”

“You're missing the point,” Jane said calmly. “I can pick up this keyboard.”

Grabbing it was a strange sensation, her fingers slid through the back and reached forward until they hit the backs of the enchanted keys, which were braced against her palm. She lifted the keyboard with both hands, the evil one was in a state of confusion and did nothing. Jane yanked on the keyboard to disengage its cord, then threw it at Chloe.

The keyboard smashed through the glass without a problem, Chloe caught it threw it towards Daniel.

The evil one couldn't understand how his flawless plan had suddenly gone so wrong. The pure one had turned on him, and now the two lesser spirits were free of their enclosures. One of them holding one of his own keyboards, one of his own tools, like a weapon to be used against him.

“Daniel!” Chloe called, then cocked her head to one side. Daniel understood and charged the evil one. Giving him a solid whack in the head, or what passed for it, with the keyboard before pushing him in the direction Chloe had indicated.

“Hey Jeff!,” Chloe shouted. Daniel stopped shoving, the evil one looked in her direction. “Is this password protected?” She asked of a lever her hand was on. The moment's confusion gave Daniel time to move away, and then Chloe pulled the lever.

A glyph lit up. Magic happened. And Jeff, the evil one, found himself in the third glass tube. An inescapable ghost trap with no one to throw a keyboard at it.

Outside of the tube the three ghosts found themselves with all the time in the world.

“I didn't know you were asexual,” Chloe said.

Daniel and Jane responded in unison, “You don't pay attention.”

“No need to gang up.”

Jane said, “Sorry.”

Daniel said, “Ditto.”

Chloe asked, “What now?”

“Well,” Daniel said, “now we ruin all his stuff.”


“Move the third tumbler down a little and... fuck.” Chloe said. “Now we're back to square one.”

“Sorry.” Daniel said.

“Could you maybe not screw things up for once!”

“It's not exactly easy to pick a lock when you have to hold the improvised tools with keys torn from an asshole's keyboard because you can't actually touch anything.”

“You're not the one who has to have their head shoved halfway through a solid object to give directions!”

For a moment the two seemed as though they might come to blows, then Jane said, “You're both awesome people working under incredibly difficult conditions, so maybe we should just take a step back to...”

And there was silence.

Chloe and Daniel asked in unison, “To what?” with more than a little impatience.

“I hadn't actually gotten that far.” Jane nervously looked at the others. “I was hoping something would come to me.” She started to back away, “Seriously, we've trapped the bad guy, can't we all just get along?”

“Yes,” Daniel said.

“We can,” Chloe said.

“But we still have a job to do,” Daniel said.

“And this part is frustrating as Hell,” Chloe said.

“How goes it with you,” Daniel asked.

“Well,” Jane said, “as near as I can tell the plan was to create a portal to the afterlife, let the dead walk amoung the living, and turn them into mindless slaves somewhere along the way.”

“So pretty standard stuff,” Chloe said.

Jane responded with sarcasm, “Yeah, happens every day.”

Daniel said, “At least it makes what we have to do simple.”

“It does?” Jane asked.

“Yeah,” he passed her a handful of computer keys, “figure out how to hot-wire the machine and scratch anything that's scratch-able.”

“Meanwhile, we,” Chloe said, “Still have to get in here.”

“You want to switch?” Daniel asked. “You pick the lock, I have my head in a solid object?”

“Tempting as that might seem, it won't work for two reasons. First, you're better at picking locks.”

“And second?”

“You give directions like a drunken cod.”

Daniel shrugged, “Well at least I'm a vertebrate.”


“I feel like we might be done,” Chloe said.

“I feel that way too,” Daniel said. “Jane, how about you?”

“Well I can turn the machine on, I think, and I've scratched the hell out of all kinds of stuff, but wasn't the point not to turn the machine on?”

“Sort of,” Chloe said.

“What did you two accomplish?” Jane asked.

Daniel said, “We picked the lock.”

“Which accomplished what, exactly?”

“It let us inside the guts of the main supercomputer,” Chloe said.

“Which would have preformed all of the calculations necessary to make the machine work right,” Daniel said.

“Except that we rearranged everything pretty much at random.”

“And put some deep gouges in some spots.”

“So now when we turn the machine on-”

“Won't it just open a portal to some other Hell dimension to allow a different army of darkness to overtake the face of the earth?” Jane asked.

“Short answer,” Chloe said.

“No,” Daniel said.

“And the long answer?”

“Interdimensional portals are tricky work that requires precise calculations and near perfect alignment,” Chloe said.

“In the absence of that it won't latch on to some other dimension, it'll try to latch onto something that doesn't exist,” Daniel said.

“And in the process it'll tie itself in a knot.”

“Which will become increasingly unstable until...”

“Kaplooee,” Chloe accompanied the word with an appropriate gesture.

Daniel said, “And that's ultimately what we came here to do.”

“Destroy the machine, destroy the equipment, end the threat,” Chloe said.

“And where will we be when this Kaplooee goes down?” Jane asked.

“Running away,” Daniel said.

“Speaking of which,” Chloe said, “we should destroy that window. The one that annoyed us on the way in.”

“That'll save a lot of time,” Daniel said.

“I've got it,” Jane said.


“So,” Jane said, hand on an improvised lever, “we're sure this won't... won't... what's the already dead equivalent of, 'Kill us'?”

“Pretty sure,” Chloe said.

“But not completely,” Daniel said.

“You're very reassuring,” Jane said. The sarcasm dripped.

Jane pulled the lever. They all ran.


“Are we sure it?” Jane asked.

“Just run!” The other two said.


As they reached Michael the local afterlife was being torn in impossible directions, pulling and pushing them so that they had to spend half their running getting back to their feet or avoiding falling down.

The border between life and death was frayed, but largely intact, and it was impossible to tell if Michael's decision to leave their bodies and run himself was a result of them shouting for him to do so, or a coincidence of timing.

All four of them escaped the facility before it imploded on itself.

The noise it made, did not resemble 'Kaplooee.'


  1. The plan was to schedule this to go up tomorrow, but I hit a wrong button. Then I thought I could make it disappear and reappear when it was supposed to, but that failed too, and in the process lost the actual time it was posted (what you see now is a best guess.)

  2. It looks like the male ghost's name changed from "David" to "Daniel."

    1. Looks like you're right. The final version was online at the place that no longer exists so that might have been corrected, I had to correct a bunch of errors when I posted this, the most recent version I still had.

      Anyway, thanks to the edit feature it's now Daniel all the way through.

  3. Yes!

    I wasn't sure about the skipping across early bits, but in the end it worked.

    Would have been nice to know what kills or nearly-kills people but leaves intact bodies and one of them alive...