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Factor-E

old factory

The rust-toothed hole in the factory wall smiled a tetanusy smile, hinting of adventure and rebellion.

“I’m going in.”

“Don’t do it, Mike,” Aaron said. “You can’t cuz—” Reasons escaped him, all but a lingering fear that showed as clear as neon on his face.

“I won’t be more than a minute. Relax.”

“There’s probably tramps in there,” Aaron said.

“Naw, this is the only way in, you know that. And grown-ups couldn’t squeeze in here.” They had spent the last forty-five minutes circling the ramshackle building, chucking rocks at the few remaining panes and beating sticks on rusty oil drums to hear the ghostly boom.

“Raccoons then. Maybe. Rats definitely. Definitely.”

Mike ignored him. Of course there’d be rats inside. He’d be disappointed if there weren’t. He squatted down and peered inside the holes, careful not to touch the tetanusy edge. He shucked off his pack filled with the last of the snacks his mom had packed for him when she thought he was going to Aaron’s to play down by his creek. Maybe he should bring that last apple and peanut butter sandwich in case he needed to distract any rats. He picked up a stick instead.

Aaron caught hold of Mike’s ankle just before he started into the hole. “Hey, careful!” Mike said. “I almost clipped my ear on the edge. You want me to get blood poisoning?”

“What if it’s haunted?” Aaron said. His face showed this was the ultimate terror, the one hiding behind all the excuses of tramps and raccoons and rats. Everybody knew this factory was haunted. That’s why the two boys had been drawn there, why they had spent forty-five minutes looking for a way in, even if neither said it out loud, even if Aaron had not admitted it to himself.

“It’s not haunted, stupid,” Mike said. He turned back to the hole and a small shiver went down his back. He hoped it was haunted.

Over twenty years before, when the factory had been recently abandoned, a girl named Katie had crawled inside, maybe through this very hole. There’d been witnesses. The other girls had waited for hours, crying and shouting Katie’s name into the hole over and over until they’d run and told their parents. The police had searched every inch of the factory, but no Katie. All the entrances had been sealed. Mike liked to think that even this hole had been welded shut, that it had opened up on its own after decades of slumber to show its rusted teeth once more.

“Look, I’m going in,” Mike said again. “Come if you want or stay here. I’ll be back in a second.” He ducked under the rusty teeth and eased his body inside.

“You’re stupid, Mike. Stupid!” Aaron smacked his stick off the side of the building, and the metal around Mike boomed and reverberated back and forth, fading off into eternity. Mike pushed forward, trying to ignore the damp mold that squished around his hand and knees.

He came out a moment later into the factory’s main room. Rays from the late afternoon sun invaded the room through the high western windows. The room was a gloomy graveyard of covered machinery and stacked crates. There was no sound from outside—Aaron had evidently stopped whacking on the sides of the building. Nothing moved inside the building. It was as if time had stopped.

There was a crash from nearby, and a stack of pallets fell over. Mike jumped. He took a step towards the hole when a flashlight beam fell on him.

“Who are you?” someone asked. Mike couldn’t see the speaker between the flashlight beam in his eyes and the cloud of dust that the falling pallets had kicked up. He put his hand up to shield his eyes and the beam dropped to the floor.

“Sorry.” It was a girl, Mike could tell. When his eyes recovered from being dazzled by the flashlight, he saw that she was about his age, with curly permed hair and a colorful jacket.

“Who are you?” she asked again.

“I’m Mike.”

“How’d you get in here? Through that hole?” She pointed to the small hole Mike had just come out of. “Are Tammy and Deborah still out there?”

A jolt of fear and exhilaration shot through Mike. He stepped back before he could stop himself. “Are you Katie?”

“Yeah, so?” Katie looked unimpressed. “Did they send you in to find me? I just got here, you know.”

He had found the ghost. She was standing right in front of him, and she didn’t even know she was a ghost.

“What year is it?” he asked.

“What?” She stared him down, then snorted in derision. “1993. Duh. Hey!” Mike had stepped forward and grabbed her hand. She jerked back, yanking her hand free and glaring. “What are you, some kind of pervert?”

She was solid. He had been expecting his hand to go right through her, but she was as solid as he was. He had smelled something from her when she moved back, fabric softener or shampoo or something flowery. Ghosts didn’t have smells, did they?

“We have to get out of here,” Mike said. A thought had struck him, a terrible, impossible thought more horrible than any he had ever had because unlike all his daydreams of monsters and ghosts and aliens, he had a feeling that this one was true. He scrambled into the opening and looked back. Katie hadn’t moved. “Come on!” he shouted and something in his voice made her move to follow him, grumbling a little.

“Keep going,” she said a moment later. “Why did you stop?”

“It’s blocked,” he said. Katie clicked on her flashlight and shone the beam past Mike’s shoulder. The exit was blocked with packed dirt.

“Those jerks!” she shouted. “I knew Tammy was mad at me, but this is too much!” She pushed past Mike to claw at the dirt.

Mike helped her dig, his heart pounding painfully in his chest. This was bad, really bad. A moment later, Katie’s hand broke through into open air. Five minutes later, she pushed herself out into the open and Mike followed, birthing himself out into a stand of ferns.

“What is this?” Katie asked. Her bluster had been left underground. Now she sounded like a scared little girl.

“It was 2017 when I went into the factory,” Mike said. He showed her his phone, and the date it displayed. There was no signal now, not even a single bar. He stood up and looked around. They were in an evergreen forest that stretched as far as they could see in all directions.

“We gotta go back!” Katie cried. “We need to fix this!” She rushed to the hole and stuck her feet in. A moment later, she pulled them out and started crying. Mike saw why; the hole was only two feet deep now.

“Time must have moved differently inside,” he said. “You disappeared ten years before I was born.”

“So what year is this?” Katie asked. She scrubbed her hands across her face, leaving dirt smeared on her cheeks like tribal warpaint.

“I have no idea,” Mike said.

*   *   *

I originally thought of this story for this week’s Friday Fictioneers prompt, but decided to do my own thing when I realized I couldn’t cram it into a 100 words. So what do you think happened? What do you think will happen to Mike and Katie? Should I continue it?

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A Date with Death

FF190 Dale Rogerson

copyright Dale Rogerson

A Date with Death

The moon was a milky corpse eye shining over the Lopinot Estate, Trinidad’s most haunted site. Inside, flashlights beams swept back and forth.

One disappeared.

“Honey?” There was no answer. She listened. A scream came from out in the jungle. Just an animal. Probably.

Creak. She hid her light. Come on, she thought.

Nothing.

A light appeared in the next room. “Hey, I found the basement!” he said, poking his head out. “It looks like there’s a grave. Let’s go down and sit in the dark.”

“Awesome!” She kissed him hard. “I love you. This is the best anniversary ever.”

I wrote this story for my wife Leah. As of tomorrow we will have been married for sixteen years, and I’m sure one of our anniversaries in the future will be spent exploring a haunted house in the dead of night looking for ghosts.


When it’s Hard to Get out of Bed

I wrote this story for my wife Leah. She is the inspiration for a lot of the story ideas I come up with.

astrophysicist ghost

 

“Ugh, I just can’t get up today,” my wife said, snuggling a little more under the covers.

“Come on,” I said. “You’re going to be late for work if you don’t get up now.”

She rolled over and pulled the covers up to her chin. “No, seriously. I think I’m stuck.”

I pulled the covers off her, which elicited cries of protest, and dragged her out of bed.

“Thanks,” she said, after she stopped glaring at me. “I really think it’s getting harder to get up lately.”

I didn’t tell her, but I was having the same problem, except for me it was in my recliner in the living room. When I was there late at night and had to go to bed, it was like my butt was literally glued to the seat.

“I think it’s ghosts,” my friend Herbert said. I wasn’t surprised at this, since Herbert had just binge watched a reality show about ghosts. If it had been history documentaries, he probably would have blamed it on the Mongols.

“How could it be ghosts?” I asked.

“Maybe they’re holding you in place for fun?” he suggested. “Look, why don’t I bring my Ouija board over and see if I can talk to them.”

“I don’t like Ouija boards,” I said. “I think they’re stupid.”

Herbert’s answer to this was to bring it over anyway the next time he visited and set it up without telling me.

“Just try it once,” he said when I noticed. “What harm can it do?”

I watched him do it. He put his hands on the pointer and said, “Ghosts—if you’re there—are you the ones responsible for the . . . the trouble getting out of bed and chairs and stuff?”

There was a pause. Then the pointer went to YES. “Why?” Herbert asked.

There was another pause and then the pointer began to spell out words. T.H.I.S  M.I.G.H.T  R.E.Q.U.I.R.E  S.O.M.E  E.X.P.L.A.I.N.I.NG.   I  W.O.U.L.D  R.E.C.O.M.M.E.N.D  G.E.T.T.I.N.G  A  S.C.I.E.N.T.I.F.I.C  O.U.I.J.A  B.O.A.R.D

“They make scientific Ouija boards?” I asked.

O.H  Y.E.S,  the board responded. T.E.X.A.S  I.N.S.T.R.U.M.E.N.T.S  M.A.K.E.S  A  G.O.O.D  O.N.E.   I  T.H.I.N.K  I.T  I.S.  T.H.E  T.I.6.6.6.

I thought Herbert was just messing around with me, but he came back a week later with a genuine scientific Ouija board. It was about three times bigger than a normal one and had lots of symbols and mathematical notations on it.

“I got the TI-668 since it has statistical symbols too,” Herbert said.

“Do you really think spirits from beyond are going to be talking a lot about standard deviation?” I asked, but he just shrugged.

If there were really ghosts in our house, they really wanted to talk. Herbert guided that pointer around the board for over three hours while I took down pages and pages of notes.

I took all the notes down to the local university. I came home that evening, exhausted and confused.

“You’re not going to believe what I found,” I told my wife. I told her. She didn’t.

According the university’s history department, our house was built on the site of an ancient astrophysicist burial ground. Even now, the dead astrophysicists would create microscopic black holes form from time to time, especially in the bedroom and living room. That’s what was making it hard to move.

“Is there anything we can do?” my wife asked at last.

“I suppose we could move,” I said. “Let’s not move to the house next door though. Apparently that was an ancient taxi driver burial ground. The owners of that house often wake up in nearby fields owing $14.50.”

We decided to stay where we were. Now whenever we are late or sleep in, we just blame it on astrophysicist ghosts.


Grave Orientation

To all my friends in CIE. You know who you are.

copyright Claire Fuller (is it cheating to use it for a non-FF story?)

copyright Claire Fuller (is it cheating to use it for a non-FF story?)

Grave Orientation

“Welcome to Death,” I say. The morgue is full of the new arrivals, shuffling incorporeally through the gurneys and equipment. They’re a motley group, from the peacefully departed to the violently wrenched. There’s no fear among them, just mild confusion.

I, however, am a nervous wreck.

I cough. “I’m here for your orientation. There are going to be several sessions, from the dos and don’ts of haunting to astral plane immigration policies. If you’ll all look at the screen on the wall—”

They’re not listening. Most are wandering away. One is inexplicably sleeping. I start to panic. I am not even supposed to be here. My boss Larry always did these, until he died last week, somewhat ironically. I wonder briefly who did his orientation and if he found it helpful.

Specters are disappearing through the walls. It’s my neck if they get away without some basic training. What’s worse, they’ll all be haunting my office the first time a graveyard bully crosses their path. I’m sweating and scrambling frantically for what to say.

Who you going to call?” I scream suddenly.

Every eye swivels slowly until the whole, ethereal crowd is looking at me, real fear evident in their wraithish eyes. Then they trundle towards me.

“Good,” I say. “Now, let’s get started.” I click the remote. “Slide 1: proper mausoleum maintenance—”


Death Don’t Us Part

Death Don't Us Part

Death Don’t Us Part

Life and death never end up like you think. I went to sleep one night, dreamed about being back at college with a lobster for a roommate, then woke up in a coffin. It was comfortable, at least.

I lay there for a bit, wondering why I had had a lobster for a roommate when I heard a tap, tap, tap.

“Who’s there?” I said. What else do you say?

“Is that you, Jamal?” It was my wife Olivia.

“Yeah, I’m in a coffin. Where are you?”

“In one too. I’m next to you.”

“Huh. Do you suppose we’re dead?”

“I suppose.”

There was a pause that could have been a few seconds or a few years.

“Do you think this is because we omitted ‘Til death do us part’ from our vows?” I asked.

“Could be. I never thought of this happening. So, you want to get out of here?”

“Can we?”

“After you, monsieur.”

I tried and a moment later, I found myself in a cemetery at night. A translucent version of Olivia appeared a moment later.

“Have you lost weight?” I asked. She rolled spectral eyes at me.

“You don’t have to be so grave about everything,” I said. That made her laugh.

“You kill me, you know?” she said.

“Not anymore. So, what now?”

She took my hand. “I don’t know, go visit our old haunts?”

“Now look who’s starting.”

We floated off. Together.


First Week at the Nexus

I realize this is two letters home from children in a week, but they’re very different and apparently this is how my mind is thinking at the moment.

copyright Joe Owens

copyright Joe Owens


Dear Mum and Dad,

Greetings from the land of inter-dimensional hospitality! Well, my first week at the Nexus Hotel is over. It didn’t drive me insane but there were several points where I wished I’d never been born. Sorry Mum, you did your best and all.

It’s pretty brutal out here. I had a party of Neanderthals stumble in from some primitive dimension and demand the first floor suites. No credit card, of course, but I got half a gazelle as payment. They trashed the rooms and set fire to two of the beds. They also massacred half a Venusian furry convention that was meeting on the third floor. I comped the survivors their rooms. Hope that’s okay.

On Wednesday, we had a couple dark specters arrive. Didn’t pay, of course, just loitered around haunting the place. I got them exorcised finally. It’s fine now.

Some sort of space princess came two days ago. That’s when things started looking up. She’s pretty. I let her have the top two floors indefinitely. I’m redecorating for her, turning it into a castle.

Don’t worry about the hotel, I’m handling everything.

Your son,

Winky.


Winky’s father put down the letter. “Maybe I should go help him out. Just for a few days.”

“You’re retired,” his wife said. “You promised.”

Her husband noticed the way she was fingering her knife. “Right, right. I’m sure he’ll be fine.”

 


Lighting the Way Home – Friday Fictioneers

I am intrigued with story tone, how just a few words can make all the difference to a story. So, for this story, I’m going to let you choose the tone. This story has four endings, all written in white font. Click the text with your left mouse button and drag to block the hidden text and reveal the ending of your choice. Then vote for your favorite.

copyright Ted Strutz

copyright Ted Strutz

Lighting the Way Home

There is a switch in the basement unconnected to any circuit. I always leave it on, hoping that somewhere, it is connected to a light that will lead Brad back to me from beyond.

*

I am sitting in bed, the silver moon fluorescing the room through the window, when the door opens.

“You came back.” I can barely breathe from joy.

“I saw your light,” Brad said. He kisses me, but his lips are cold and I taste decay.

_____________________________________________________

1. Scary

“I came back for you,” he whispers. I jerk awake, gasping, and run to the basement, clawing at the accursed switch.

_____________________________________________________

2. Sad

“Are you real?” He doesn’t answer. I reach out and he starts to recede. “Brad!”

I wake, tears soaking my pillow.

_____________________________________________________

3. Quirky

“Are you still dead?” I ask.

He smiles sheepishly. “Yeah. Can I come to bed?”

“Fine. Brush your teeth first, though.”

_____________________________________________________

4. Silly

“I love you, Beth,” he says.

“My name is Heather,” I say.

“Shit, I got the wrong house again.” He disappears.

_____________________________________________________


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