Ghostly Defense

The world watched live on tv as alien ships hovered over every major city on earth. I never thought I would live to see our hopes and fears about extraterrestrial life play out on CNN. To be accurate I hadn’t lived to see it.

I had died in my sleep years before but it wasn’t peaceful. My killer stabbed me twenty-three times but the first three would have been enough. The violence, my pain, my fear, my suffering bound my spirit to earth. At least I think that’s how it happened. Maybe I’m just a remnant, a torn scrap of a soul. Existence is weird after you die.

Time is moves differently. Sometimes days blurred by; other times a night lasted forever. Then there is moving around. I could effortlessly pass through all walls, ceilings, and floors. Except I couldn’t leave my home. The outside walls were simply impenetrable to me. And worst of all, I had no body. I mean, I was a ghost so of course I didn’t have a body but I also didn’t have, like, a ghost body I could see or feel. I learned to “walk” like I had feet and “grab” things like I had hands. After a while, I fully grounded myself and settled down to quietly haunt my house.

When I was alive, I didn’t care who might live in my house after I was gone. I hadn’t expected to be around to care. Turns out I did care. I drove out several new owners for various reasons. My methods were classic haunting. I opened cabinet doors. I stomped in the hallways at night. I rattled doorknobs. I moved small items. Once I managed to break a window. It was never earth-shattering scary but if done randomly and often enough, anyone will give in. If I had to “live” with these people, then I needed to like them.

Finally, a nice lesbian couple, Lou and Betty, moved in after buying at a discount because of my haunting. They burned incense and left small food offerings, neither of which I could truly enjoy but the gesture was nice. Better than the previous owners who tried to have me exorcised. I stopped being a problem ghost and “lived” in peace with them. They didn’t know my name but knew I had been a woman so they called me Jane.

Years passed. Betty went back to school, meanwhile, Lou wrote a book but never finished the sequel. They had two kids, Diane and then Henry a couple of years later, and a parade of cats most of who mostly ignored me. The main exception was Miss. Whiskers, an older rescue, who hissed near constantly at my presence. After a couple of years, she only hissed when I entered a room.

Through it all they never forgot me. The incense burning and food offerings dwindled and stopped but I didn’t mind. They were nice people and often tried to include me in discussions. “Do you think Jane would like to watch a comedy or action movie tonight?” Most times I didn’t answer. It felt voyeuristic to be an unseen and unheard presence except by knocking on a wall. I did occasionally put on a mild show when their skeptical friends would visit.

When they brought Diane home for the first time, Lou stopped just inside the front door and introduced me to her. I gently held her hand and she tried to squeeze back. At night, I watched over her and as she started to crawl and walk I guarded her steps. Henry was much the same. I fretted all day when Diane began preschool causing the wind chimes hung in the living room to sound randomly. Betty thought it was funny that I seemed more active when the kids were out of the house. I couldn’t guide them away from sharp corners or steady them when they tripped when they were out of the house.

In my death, I had found a family. Then they appeared. Silent massive hovering alien ships. I watched the news from behind the couch as Lou, Betty, and the kids huddled together. We hoped they came in peace but when the pods began to drop that hope died. Alien controlled machines began terrorizing cities around the world.

Nearby, I heard and felt an explosion rumble through the house. They were coming and there was nothing I could do to protect my family. I became erratic; pacing through the walls, flying from floor to floor, causing doors to bang open and closed. I only stopped, when I heard Betty yelling, “Jane stop it! You’re scaring the children!” I froze in the kitchen. From outside I could hear more explosions and people yelling. Then the front of the house tore open. One of the alien machines stood staring in through the hole it had made. It raised what I could only guess was a weapon and took aim.

Time slowed as I launched myself at the machine not caring that I could do nothing. As I approached, I felt heat coming from the machine. It grew in intensity until I felt like I was burning but I continued toward it. I grabbed at the weapon and electricity lit up every nerve in my non-existent body The weapon sagged and the machine staggered back with twitchy uneven movements. I followed it out on to the lawn and reached into the body of the machine. Again electricity surged painfully through me but what was that going to do, kill me? I pressed forward to the hottest part of the machine. A horrible screeching sound came from inside the alien machine and then it collapsed to the ground.

My amazement at my apparent victory was cut short by Diane yelling, “Are you a superhero?!” I turned to see all four of my adopted family staring at me.

“You can see me?” I asked. I glanced down seeing my body for the first time in years.

“Yeah, we can see you. Who are you?” Lou asked.

“I’m … I’m Jane the ghost,” I said opting for the name they would know.

“You’re our ghost!” Diane shouted. She broke into a run towards me and passed right through me. I reached back, grabbed the back of her shirt, and pulled her back inside the house. A hand passed through me followed by a squeak from Betty.

“You really are a ghost,” she said. “What did you do to it?”

“I don’t know. I just touched it.” I heard a crash, nearby. I stepped out on the lawn to get a better look. Another machine was tearing into a house down the street. I was outside; no longer trapped in the house. My adopted family stood behind me.

“Are you going to fight it?” Henry asked.

“Yeah.” I turned around. The front of the house was torn open. “Listen the house might collapse so go someplace safe. I’m going to … take care of this.”

“Are you coming back?” Lou asked.

“Of course. You’re my family. I love y’all. I’m going to keep you safe.” I turned around and started running toward the second alien machine before I could find out if ghosts could cry.

The second machine went down as easily, except for the nonexistent burning nerve endings, as the first. Over the next few days, other empowered ghosts began to appear around the world but ghosts are rarer than most people think. There weren’t enough of us to decisively change the tide of the invasion at first. After we lured a few alien machines on to some Civil War battlefields, we started to have the numbers. The Ghost War had just begun.

Everyone Knows

Reality is a construct created by evolution and society.
True Reality is inaccessible to us.
Dreams and nightmares might show us the seams
But the curtain is never pulled back.

There are hidden lines and vectors.
Colors and shapes we can not see. Thoughts we cannot think.
Reality is a shared hallucination with as much substance as fog.
The thin slice we experience is enough for most.

What wonders or terrors are just out of view?
What symphonies or cacophonies play in the silence?
What unknowns exist right here around us?
What might we know tomorrow?

The Imprisoned God

Shackles encircled his wrists and neck. Mundane steel and concrete bound her in place. A god gains strength and power from believers and worship. In this foreign land, he had neither. In the dark, under the blinding sun, through heatwave and blizzard, through drought and flood, they languished alone.

The god’s keepers, tormentors, examiners were mortals with no god of their own and no desire to worship the one they had captured, taken, stolen. To a non-believer, a god is an oddity, a relic, a specimen. They poked and prodded the god with their devises and implements. Samples and measurements were taken. Notes and charts were made. Hypothesis and theories were created.

After a time, they had learned what they could or lost interest. They could not release the god, so they buried her. Cool damp earth was poured down on the god. It crushed, embraced, supported the god. Finally, he allowed themselves to rest. Under the earth, she slept; discarded, hidden, forgotten for now.

Counting Stairs

… One Two Three …
When I walk up or down a set of stairs, I count them.
I don’t count my steps while walking.

… Four Five Six …

There is safety and comfort in counting stairs.
I’m afraid to miss a step, stumble, and fall.

… Seven Eight Nine …

There are nineteen stairs going up to my apartment.
Eighteen really but I count the landing as the last stair.

… Ten Eleven Twelve …

I find it satisfying to count the correct amount.
Sometimes I get distracted and miscount.

… Thirteen Fourteen Fifteen …

I might count seventeen or nine or eleven stairs.

… Sixteen Seventeen Eighteen …

I’ve never counted more than nineteen because
it’s much harder to over count stairs.

… Nineteen Twenty Twenty-one …

Wait, how many stairs did I just count?
How much farther is it?

… Twenty-two Twenty-three Twenty-four …

… Twenty-five …

Card Tricks

It was late, well after midnight, when I started doing magic tricks. Our host, Jane, had cornered me when I went in search of a drink. She had even produced a deck of cards when I protested that I didn’t have any props. For an hour I revealed “Magic’s Greatest Secrets”, sleight of hand tricks and misdirection, to a captivated audience. After that, I got bored.

“These tricks are just illusions. Anyone with enough patience can learn these.” I paused locking eyes with everyone in the kitchen in turn. “Would you like to see some real magic?” A couple people chuckled. One woman enthusiastically said, “Yes!” The rest mumbled assent. I thought fast and came up with something that would wow them.

“Ok. Does anyone have duct tape?” The host found a roll in the kitchen junk drawer. I spread the deck on the counter. “Someone pick a card any card.” Maria picked a card, three of clubs, and handed it to me. I held it flat against my fingers so half the card extended past my fingertips. “Now I need someone to tape the card to my hand. Use as much tape as you want. Just leave my fingertips and the end of the card uncovered.”

Marcus pulled a length of tape free from the roll with a rip. He wrapped the tape around my fingers three times before wrapping twice around my palm and wrist.

“Anyone got a light?” Linda produced a lighter. I flicked it on and ran the flame over the edge of the card. It blackened and caught fire. A thin wisp of smoke rose toward the ceiling. “Fire. One of the primal forces of nature that we have tamed. It keeps us warm and dry. It cooks our food. It lights the dark nights. But it still can burn us. Unchecked it sweeps across the land destroying everything in its path.” While I had been speaking the flame had traveled down the card and was threatening my fingertips. I could feel the heat building up in them. A shrill beeping exploded overhead. One guy yelled, a few others ducked and half crouched, everyone covered their ears.

“Pay attention. Ignore that noise,” I yelled waving at the smoke detector. I raised my free hand over the burning card fingers splayed apart. I let my mind loose observing the fire, the smoke, the card, bits of ash in the air. I held them all in my mind and reversed entropy. My audience, if they were attentive enough might have seen the flame become unnaturally still for a couple of seconds. And then it began to move again but it wasn’t burning the card anymore. Instead, it flowed up the card, the blackened paper reforming in its wake. The flame reached the top of the card growing smaller and smaller until only the corner remained darkened. It died and the card was left untouched by fire. I released my grip on reality and allowed entropy to resume its natural flow.

Everyone stared at the card. They said nothing.

“Hey, can someone turn off the smoke detector before the neighbors call the police or something,” I said. Maria climbed up on a kitchen bar stool, while Marcus steadied her, and pushed the reset button. The rest kept staring at me as I picked at the duct tape ineffectively. I realized they were waiting for me to reveal the trick, instead, I asked, “Can I get a little help?” and hold up my taped hand.

Linda grabbed my hand and started tearing and peeling the duct tape off my hand. The card went with the tape after she pulled it all off. She peeled the card off of the tape and looked at it.

“How did you do that?” Fred asked.

“Magic,” I said. My hand was sticky from the tape.

“What’s the trick?” Marcus asked. “Did you have a second card in your palm or up your sleeve?”

“No. There was no trick. It was magic.” The lemon fresh dish-soap on the sink was getting some of the tape residue off but not all of it.

“The card was stuck to the tape. She couldn’t have switched cards,” Linda said.

“Maybe she used the fire alarm as a distraction?” George suggested.

“I was watching the whole time. She never touched the card after she lit it on fire,” Ben said. I dried my hands with a paper towel and tossed it in the trash.

“Look there’s no trick or illusion. I burnt the card and then I bent reality so it would unburn. I’ve been honest with you all night, right? Showing you how every trick worked, right? I asked if you wanted to see real magic, right? I showed you real magic and now you call me a liar.”

“No it’s just magic isn’t real. You told us that earlier.”

“I showed you tricks. I said they weren’t magic but I never said magic wasn’t real.”