Haunt [Flash Fiction]

The three ghosts glided out of the movie theater, grumbling. It had been a slow night, and they’d finally decided to pass the time by watching a film. They’d been disappointed. It had been a horror movie about ghosts, ghouls, goblins and girls, and none of them – not even the girls – had been represented accurately.

“There are two common mistakes,” the oldest-looking ghost said. “Either ghosts are made to look opaque, or else they retain the wounds and symptoms that they possessed when alive.”

“Don’t start lecturing,” warned the ghost-woman, raising a finger threateningly.

“Yeah, please don’t, dude,” the third ghost said. He picked his nose with his pinkie, digging¬†vigorously¬†in the cavity with his mouth slightly open and a vague expression on his face.

“Gross!” the ghost-woman said, turning away and rolling her eyes.

“You, my young friend,” the first ghost said evenly, “are truly a shameful specimen of the afterlife. We have higher standards than humans, you know.”

“But what’s the point of being invisible if you can’t do the stuff you’re not supposed to do when you’re alive?” the young ghost whined.

The woman and the older man exchanged glances and mouthed a word that looked suspiciously like “newbie.”

“Come,” the elder-ghost beckoned to the two others after glancing at a digital clock displayed over the door of a store selling watches. “It’s late enough to get to work now.”

“I’m so not in the mood,” complained the woman-ghost. “But you gotta do what you gotta do. Or whatever.”

“Indeed.”

And so, with well-practiced moves, the three ghosts ducked into the supermarket and began to haunt it.

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The Psychiatrist

The psychiatrist worked in her parents’ old apartment. All the old furniture was still present; the heavy wooden cabinets filled with silver platters and goblets that hadn’t been polished in decades; the low couches, uncomfortably padded with thin cushioning, that had been considered luxurious some fifty years ago; the big television that seemed to stick out like a sore thumb in the room. The psychiatrist could almost feel the ghosts of her parents walking around the apartment, grunting as they sat down heavily or groaning as they made their slow way into the kitchen to make a cup of tea.

Small wonder, then, that she was a bit mad herself.

She didn’t enjoy her work. She despised each and every one of the men, women and children that walked through the door, hating them for their assumption that they were important or that they mattered at all to her. She hadn’t cared for naught but the revenue in years. She’d been embittered, somewhere along the way, and as the years went by she could hardly hold up the pretense of caring. For instance, she now let herself answer her cellphone during sessions. She now let herself get up and make a cup of tea, leaving her patients at the dining room table, where she conducted her sessions, while they drew what she’d instructed them to. She now had to remind herself to occasionally spit out an insincere sympathetic word.

She was frightening to look at. It was just another aspect of her madness, the way she’d dyed her hair a strange shade of orange and had allowed it to grow into a sort of untamed nest atop her head; the way her clothes were several sizes too big, reminding her patients of witch’s robes as they swirled around, swallowing the light in their velvet black folds; the way her eyes were now always unfocused, not managing to stay fixed on the patients’ faces.

She was surrounded by ghosts, and her patients could feel them as well as she did. They didn’t know why they got goosebumps, but they did. They didn’t know why they felt compelled to try to meet the psychiatrist’s wandering gaze, but they did. They didn’t know why they felt compelled to run, leave, jump out the window – but they did. Most never came back.