The Ghost of Halloweens Past – a flash fantasy story

ghosts-982975_1280Without distractions, Halloween would just have been the first anniversary of my death, a time for some mopey haunting. But I was determined not to let it get to me. The guys had accepted my ongoing presence in the house – I even had my own room still – and that meant I got to attend the annual party.

The first problem came when I tried to put on my costume. I hadn’t bothered changing clothes since I died – ghost shirts don’t get sweaty or stained. I gathered all the ghostly substance I could and pulled on an old polar bear outfit I’d worn for a fun run.

Grinning, I looked at the foggy figure of myself in the mirror. But the instant I stopped focusing on holding it up, the costume fell through me, dropping in a disheartening heap on the floor.

I wasn’t going to let this get me down. Tonight was my night. Walking through the door, I left my abandoned costume and headed down to join the party.

There was already a small crowd around my favourite party tradition, punch bowl apple bobbing. Friends greeted me enthusiastically, and Little Dave waved me forward.

“Happy death day, man!” he exclaimed. “Here, have a go.”

To cheers and shouts of “Apple chug!” I leaned forward and plunged my open mouth at the nearest fruit.

The apple bobbed up through my ghostly head, to a mix of groans and laughter. Hiding my disappointment, I forced a grin and mugged for the crowd, then hurried away.

“You’re cute,” a drunk blonde said, staggering up to me as I stared at the drinks table. “But what’s up with your skin?”

She leaned forward, trying to lean on me as she reached for my cheek, and fell through me to the floor.

This time even I laughed. What’s not funny about drunks falling over? Give it a few hours and I could be one of them.

It was time to accept my place and roll with it.

“Here, man.” My housemate Rob held out a glass of tequila. “Let’s celebrate the day of the dead!”

Carefully focusing, I took the glass between my fingers, raised it to my lips and tipped it back.

For the briefest moment I tasted the gloriously fiery flavour of the drink. Then it fell through me, creating an embarrassing damp patch on the carpet.

“Next!” Rob, oblivious to what had happened, started pouring me another.

“No, thanks,” I muttered, slumping as I walked away, feeling more excluded than ever.

The front door was open, but that didn’t stop a group of trick-or-treaters ringing the bell. Out of years of habit, I reached for the candy bowl, only for my hand to pass through it and the table below.

I turned to see half-a-dozen ten-year-olds in costumes from cartoons, all staring slack-jawed at me.

“That was awesome,” one of them whispered, wide-eyed.

“Arrrghhh!” screamed another, and the rest joined in.

As they ran off into the night, I finally managed a genuine smile. Easing myself back into the wall, I got ready to spring out on the next group of visitors. Maybe there was a place for me in Halloween after all.

I reached for a can of beer someone had left on the hall table. It slid through my hand.

* * *


It’s Halloween weekend, the time of year when things get spoooooky…. Or just costumed and over-excited on sugar. Either way, time for a seasonal story.

And if you want something genuinely creepy, you can find my medieval horror story ‘Cold Flesh’ in the recently released 9Tales Told in the Dark 18. When a revolt fails, men get hanged. But does that mean that they’re gone for good?

Ghosts of the Space Lanes – a flash science fiction story

spaceship-1516139_1280The Star Runner turned as I tilted the controls to port, edging us into a thinner area of the asteroid field. The grip of the yoke was well-worn, a perfect fit for my hands. A lucky charm in an area most spacefarers considered cursed. So many ships had been lost here down the years, from human freight haulers like our own to the exploration pods of alien civilisations. Everybody kept coming because of the riches in these rocks, but few relished the journey.

Rappoport, the cargo master, ducked beneath the low doorway from the crew quarters and joined me on the bridge.

“Captain, there are ghosts,” she said.

I flicked my eyes away from the holobox showing our position in space. Rappoport was white as a sheet and her hand trembled as she placed it on my shoulder.

I hated to be touched and Rappoport knew it. Whatever was affecting her must be extreme.

“Are you back off the waggon?” I asked, holding back the snap of anger.

“No, captain.” She looked shocked at the suggestion. “There are ghosts. Spirits of those who’ve died out here. I’ve seen then. So have Angelo and Dover. Everyone’s unhappy.”

I flipped a switch, turning on the autopilot and a dozen different proximity sensors. Our course would be less efficient without me shaving it short by running close to the rocks, but this would at least keep us safe while I dealt with the crew.

All dozen of them, from the navigator down to the handyman, were waiting for me in the rec room.

“There’s no such thing as ghosts,” I said. “Get back to your stations.”

“No, captain.” Angelo, the tubby little mechanic, folded his arms and stared nervously at me. “We want to turn back.”

“Do you know how much we lose if we do that?” I said.

“Everybody knows this place is cursed.” Dover pushed herself away from the wall, slipping into the fighter’s stance she took when on edge. “We ain’t going no further.”

Murmurs of agreement told me how close they were to mutiny. My own crew. Disgusting behaviour, but I’d lecture them on that later. For now, I needed a way forward that kept crew and ship heading towards our cargo’s destination.

“Tell you what,” I said. “Show me these ghosts and I’ll turn us around. But if you can’t – if you’re all high or dreaming – then there’ll be hell to pay.”

They led me into the creaking corridors connecting the cargo containers. We didn’t suit up – the lower shielding here wouldn’t matter as long as we didn’t linger too long. I had no intention of lingering at all.

“Well?” I snapped. “Where are your-”

I froze. A pale figure hung in the air in front of me. Indistinct as it was, it reached out a hand, pointing off to the left, and let out a terrible wail.

My blood froze. Was I losing my mind, or was this really a ghost? I trembled, dreading either thought.

The apparition flickered, and for a moment it became clearer. It was no human – the eyes were too large, the hands three-fingered. As I watched, my skin growing cold, the ghost slowly turned, pointing at something we were leaving behind.

Heart hammering in my chest, aware of the gazes of my crew boring into me, I forced myself to take a step forward and then another, until the apparition was close enough to touch. As I reached out it flickered again, becoming pixelated before returning to its hazy form.

Relief washed over me and I laughed, as much at my own foolishness as anyone else’s.

“It’s a hologram,” I announced. “Something from an alien ship, probably a rescue beacon pointing to where they’ve crashed.”

“Holograms can’t project through walls!” Rappoport protested.

“And where’s the holobox frame?” Dover asked.

“Aliens,” I said. “Alien technology. Who knows what these ones can do? Dover, go turn us around.”

“But if it’s not a ghost-” Angelo began.

“If it’s not a ghost then it has real technology,” I said, rubbing my hands together in glee. “Real technology no human’s ever seen, and that we’ll be first to bring to market. We’re rich, boys and girls.”

Cheers rang through the corridor as Dover hurried back towards the bridge.

Cursed indeed, I thought to myself, trying to shake off the creeping feeling in my spine. Maybe we’d make this place a lucky one instead.

* * *


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Shades of Loss – a #FlashFriday story

Picture by Jan Bommes via Flickr Creative Commons
Picture by Jan Bommes via Flickr Creative Commons

Strange, rusted shapes crunched beneath Mantaj’s feet as she approached the ruins, holy book clasped in her hand. When she was young, she and the other children had come here often, rummaging through the rubble in search of these ancient artefacts from before the dark time. This place of excitement was now one of terror, for her even more than for the other villagers. But they were not priests, and so the exorcism fell to her.

With trembling steps she walked through the high doorway, the flames of her torch making shadows dance around the hall within. A fresh pile of rubble lay ahead of her, a dark stain at its edge. The stain of her mother’s blood.

As she approached the rubble, a ghostly figure appeared in the air further down the hall. Terrible, wrenching loss at the sight of her mother’s face was replaced by fear for her life. This was the unnatural thing that had sent others running, a spirit from the beyond. It was said that the walking dead could devour your soul, and the fear of the beyond that had led Mantaj to become a priest now made her feet falter.

“It’s all so beautiful.” The ghost smiled, then looked up in alarm. Some invisible force struck it to the ground, head caved in just as her mother’s had been. A moment later it was upright again. “It’s all so beautiful.”

As she watched her mother die over and over, Mantaj’s fear was replaced by guilt. She had been fearing for herself, not mourning her mother’s loss. The feelings twisted up together, freezing her in place.

“I shall make shadows out of loss,” she said, reciting her favourite scripture for reassurance.  “Angels shall become demons at my hand, and demons shall become angels.”

She walked with trembling steps across the hall, forcing herself not to flee as the invisible rubble crushed her mother and the roof creaked overhead. Her duty was to keep the village safe, and to help her mother move on.

A hiss came from the side of the hall, a feral cat prowling through the ruins. For a moment it seemed to glow, and the ghostly image was broken by the animal’s silhouette. Behind the cat, something glowed.

She turned and walked toward that point of light. One foot sank into a hole in the floor. Yelping, she fell to the ground.

As she pulled herself back to her feet, her mother’s voice was replaced by an echo of that yelp.

Mantaj looked back. The ghost no longer took her mother’s form. Now it looked like Mantaj herself, caught over and over in the act of tripping at that hole, crying out again and again in alarm.

She trembled with fear. If that was her ghost, then what had happened to her body? Had she fallen and cracked her head open? Was she now just a remnant waiting to pass on, her mortal flesh lying dead on the ground? She forced herself to look down, to face the terrible reality of her fate.

There was no body. Only the hole, the ground, and Mantaj standing on it.

Relief lifted her spirits, and she walked more confidently toward the glowing light.

“Demons shall become angels,” she said, holding the book out in front of her like a talisman. No-one trained village priests to perform exorcisms, but she knew that holy words could drive out unholy spirits. “Demons shall become angels.”

“Demons shall become angels.” The ghost echoed her voice, and as she glanced back she saw that it too walked confidently forward, though without moving from its spot.

Approaching the wall, she saw that the light was coming from an ancient device embedded in the base of the wall. It was dirty and rusted, and a lump of rock had recently fallen against it, pressing on two protrusions that glowed like fine gemstones, one blue and one red. Was it some sort of trap, confining the spirits that haunted this place? A blue gem to display benevolent spirits and a red one to trap demons, as she had heard of in legends?

She lifted away the rock at its base. Both gems ceased their glowing, and the light went out. Behind her, the ghost fell silent.

Mantaj was surprised to feel a surge of sadness. She had lost so much with her mother’s death, and the transformation of that spirit from an image of death to a message of scripture had given her hope. For a moment she had believed that death was not the end, not for good things.

She stroked the blue gemstone, and the lighted flashed again. Leaning the rock against the gem, she saw it resume its soft glow and heard her own voice coming from behind her.

“Demons shall become angels,” the ghost said again.

“Thank you.” Mantaj bowed her head to the spirit trap, and turned to leave.

“Demons shall become angels.” The voice followed her out through the hall. “Demons shall become angels.”

* * *

This story is a return to the world I set up in ‘Pale Wings’, one where advanced technology has come to be seen as magic. That original idea came from Ben Moxon, while this story came about because Steve Hartline said he would like to see more of this world. Mantaj is named after a friend of mine, who this week gave me some of the best writing feedback I’ve ever had – I wanted to provide some sort of tribute.

If you enjoyed this story then you can find links to many more of my flash fiction pieces here, read more in my books, and even get a free copy of my short story collection Riding the Mainspring by signing up to my mailing list.

And as always, if you’d like to leave any feedback or an idea for a future story then please leave a comment below.