Welp, I asked for it. And you responded!
Hello all. I am celebrating 7 years doing the very thing you’re looking at right here. Right now. This. This is what I’ve been doing for 7 whole years. So, with it being a lucky number and all, I asked all of you legions of loyal readers to submit short, sentence long prompts for me to write a short story about. And here is the fruit of that pointless but satisfying labor!
First from Mr. Sopantooth of the crab clan.
#1. Do Ghosts have 1st Amendment Rights?
Great question. Here’s my response.
THE BILL OF WIGHTS
“Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, the question before us today is this; does our right to free speech end once we shove off this mortal coil?”
The lawyer folded his glasses and placed them in his coat pocket, a well-practiced move.
“If we continue to quote and hold with great reverence the words of dead men and women, if we keep the language of the documents they left behind sacred, whether they be wills or letters or the very documents upon which our country was founded, then I posit to you that perhaps the deceased are afforded the same protection our Constitution promises us all. Unalienable rights endowed by our Creator do not disappear just because we find ourselves pushing up daisies.”
“This is preposterous!” a bystander in the court bellowed. “Equating wills with constitutional rights? It’s not a LAST WILL AND TESTAMENT if they keep on fucking talking now is it?”
“ORDER!” the judge screamed, banging her gavel. “We shall have no outbursts in my court! Please continue, defense.”
“Thank you, your Honor. In the case of the People v. the late Mrs. Morris, the jury will find no choice but to acquit.”
The prosecution stood dramatically, a well-practiced move of their own.
“The defense is correct when they say that the Founding Fathers declared that all men were endowed with certain unalienable rights. Among them being Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. Life, ladies and gentlemen. Not unlife. Not semi-life. Life. When a person is declared legally dead, according to the Uniform Determination of Death Act, a standard held by all 50 states and the District of Columbia, they are no longer afforded the same protections under law. They are afforded different protections, certainly, but while the defense would have you equate the written word left behind by the deceased with the spoken words and actions of the deceased’s ghost, they are in effect both materials left behind in the wake of the deceased’s death. Mrs. Morris’ ghost has no more right to free speech than does her ceramic teacup collection.”
“Thank you, your Honor,” the prosecutor said, shooting a look at the defense. “During this trial we will show that the late Mrs. Morris’ actions led to undue distress and panic, no different than shouting fire in a crowded theater. The jury will see no other option than to pass a guilty verdict.”
The case of the People v. the late Mrs. Morris went on for days. The press coverage was a circus, of course. On the final day, the judge called for counsel to meet in her chambers prior to their closing statements.
“This is unprecedented in the history of the law. Should it come down to it, I wonder what sentence the prosecution will call for as we’ve never charged a ghost before,” the judge said, rubbing the sides of her head.
“We have a few ideas,” the prosecutor replied.
“Oh come on,” the defense guffawed. “What are you going to do? Send her to ghost jail? Hell, the highest punishment we can possible dole out is something the defendant has already experienced firsthand!”
“Your failure of imagination is not the People’s problem. Besides, there are lots of ways to punish the “life adjacent”. A spiritual restraining order from seeing their living loved ones, perhaps?” the prosecution offered.
“You’re diabolical,” the defense replied.
“The People choose to take that as a compliment.”
“Look, if the bedsheets want rights, then let Congress write one up for them. A… Bill of Wights or something. Ha! I just came up with that.”
“Enough, you two. God, I just want this nightmare to be over with.”
The defense and prosecution made and then rested their case. It was all down to the jury now. The defense wiped the sweat off his eyelids. What happened next would determine the fates of all who’s souls lingered in the mortal plane.
“It’ll be alright, Mrs. Morris. We have a great case. A solid case.”
“FFFFUUUUUUUUUUUCK!” Mrs. Morris replied.
“I know. But trust the system.”
“SSSSHHHHHHIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIITTTT!!!” Mrs. Morris replied.
The jury reached a verdict. They filed one by one into the courtroom. All cameras turned to focus on them.
“Jury. Have you reached a verdict?” the judge asked.
“Yes we have,” the juror said, clearing his throat. “In the case of the People v. the late Mrs. Morris, the jury find the defendant… sexy as charged.”
“Excuse me?” the judge asked.
“Mrs. Morris has it going on,” the juror said, making an hourglass shape with his hands. “If I got the chance, I’d shoot my ectoplasm right up her…”
“Wait! Is that you, Mr. Morris?” the judge asked.
The juror looked back and forth between the judge and the spectators.
“I’m not… not Mr. Morris.”
“Possession! Bailiff, remove Mr. Morris from my courtroom this instant!” the judge ordered.
The bailiff took out a rosary and began to pray, causing the juror being possessed by Mr. Morris to hiss and flee.
“Well. That’s going to be a mistrial for sure,” the defense said, cleaning his glasses.
“PIIIIIISSSSSSS!!!!!!!” Mrs. Morris replied.
Wow. What a tale.
Now here’s one from the ever illustrious Anushka of thebluediary6 fame.
#2. Basically, stranded on mars with a spaceship haunted by a jerk superhero.
Love the addition of jerk. It colors the whole thing, doesn’t it? Okay, here it is!
THE GHOST OF MARS
That’s how long it takes for messages to travel to Earth from Mars.
That’s how long one Martian day is.
That’s how long it’s going to take to mount a rescue mission to save my ass.
Yes, I’m stuck on Mars. Stranded, you could say. The only living soul on the planet. Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean I’m alone.
“Please don’t tell me you’re going out in that,” the spectral voice says.
It interrupts my tinkering. I so loathe it when people interrupt my tinkering time.
“Go away. I’m tinkering,” I reply.
“The Martian atmosphere is harsh, but not harsh enough to justify those colors. Can’t we spruce this outfit up with a little pizzazz?”
“Are you negging me right now? About my clothes? On Mars?”
“Fashion trumps everything, girl. So says Cosmo Ghost!”
I hate Cosmo Ghost. He was the lone superhero attached to the Mars Observation Research Project Habitat. Yes, the project name is also a dumb acronym. No, I don’t know why they chose it.
Anyway, old CG was supposed to maintain the super technology based components of the research base with his massive super intelligence, something almost as big as his ego. But something went wrong in transit and when we landed, we discovered his life pod had malfunctioned, killing him when we were halfway to Mars. His superpower activated, though, and his soul attached itself to the landing craft, a fact we didn’t discover until after we landed.
That was three weeks ago. A lot’s happened since then. A lot of blood, sweat and tears. My original crew of five dwindled until I was the only one left. Back on Earth, mission control is freaking out because 500 billion dollars is riding on my keeping the base running until the back up crew gets here. This endeavor is liable to sink the entire space program if I fail.
Okay, first of all the soil is crap. Can’t grow anything because of all the heavy metals in the ground and the stuff we brought to grow food isn’t integrating with the Martian soil at all. Secondly, the radiation is killer. The atmosphere provides the tiniest bit of protection, but without kitting up in god dang spaceship parts, I can’t leave the base at all. We severely underestimated how much radiation was going to be out here. I might get cancer and die before anyone ever comes. Though at this point I might just take it if it means getting away from Cosmo Ghost. Then again, what if it means I get trapped here as a ghost? God, that would be the worst.
“I know we have some pink materials in the supply shack. Maybe some mauve?” Cosmo Ghost wonders aloud.
“I don’t have resources to waste on my looks right now. Please leave me alone,” I sigh.
“Boooooooring. Come on, girl. Live a little. How sad is it that a ghost has to tell you that?”
“I’m not a ‘girl’. I’m an astronaut and a scientist and you will address me with respect.”
“You can’t infringe on my Free Speech. I have First Amendment Rights!”
“That’s not what that… Argh! You’re driving me up a wall, Cosmo!”
Cosmo Ghost smiles when I say that. I make a note of it for later.
At night, the temperature dips to around 70 below Celsius. I don’t know what that is in Fahrenheit. I have trouble sleeping. Part of me is worried that some core component of the life support system will fail and I’ll die in my sleep. Another part of me is unnerved by the idea of sleeping millions of miles from home. Millions of miles away from any living thing.
I’m stuck on a dead world. And soon, I’ll be dead too.
No. I can’t think like that. Keep it together.
Cosmo Ghost doesn’t have to sleep, so he makes it his duty to patrol the base. Patrol for what, I don’t know. He makes a big show of it. He makes a big show of everything. He came up in the 50’s and 60’s when space flight was all the rage. If you didn’t look “sciencey” no one would take you seriously as a superhero.
In the 70’s and 80’s he crashed hard and basically disappeared from public life. Now it’s 1999 and here he is trying to revitalize his image. Or he tried to anyway. Now he’s dead. Oh well.
Two months in and CG has a breakthrough. He realizes that the base has all the parts I need to make a spacecraft myself and get me back to Earth. In fact, if I hurry, I can have the craft ready to go when Earth and Mars are closest to each other’s orbits. I am so drunk on the hope of getting home alive that I totally miss the red flags in his designs.
It’s been six months and the craft is finished. I make the final preparations for take off. All systems are green. Everything is ready for the long trip home.
“One last thing before we go, sweetheart,” Cosmo Ghost says.
“What is it?”
“To celebrate this grand occasion, I thought we could split a bottle of champagne.”
“Champagne? Where the hell did you get champagne?”
“It was part of the crew’s rations. A little something to celebrate mission success,” he tells me.
“Well, guess we won’t be needing it for that,” I say, popping the champagne bottle.
“A toast. To the finest scientist on Mars,” Cosmo Ghost says, raising a spectral glass.
“I see what you did there,” I say. “Right back at ya, CG.”
I drink deep of the celebratory spirits.
It’s the last thing I ever do.
My eyes open. Heavy flesh blinders gliding over squishy orbs. My heart beats. My lungs fill with artificial air. I am alive again. I touch “my face” with “my hands”.
“Thank you for your sacrifice, dear,” I say as I wrap my crimson scarf around my neck and hook my science gear up to my now feminine body. “I hope the narcotic blend I snuck into your drink made the transition… painless. But, thanks to you… Cosmo Ghost lives again!”
I just realized that’s two different ghost tales. Huh. All right, up next we got a prompt from the one and only Catastrophe Jones.
#3. Reflection in unlikely surfaces.
You know, I could have probably turned this into a ghost thing too somehow. Kept the theme going. But here’s what I got.
EYES LIKE MIRRORS, NOT WINDOWS
Joseph Colton entered the greasy spoon diner and sat at the counter two chairs down from the cash register. The waitress looked up from her cell phone long enough to register the new customer before taking another drag from her nearly spent cigarette. She had stringy brown hair that might have once been described as “wild and unkempt” but now looked like a bird’s nest, and wrinkled skin covered in faded tattoos that spoke of a rich and buried history. She put her cigarette out in a coffee pot and slunk over to the waiting patron.
“What can I get for you, hun?” she asked, voice raspy and tired.
“Coffee. And information,” Joseph replied.
“I’m not much of a talker,” she said, cautiously.
“Maybe my friends Benjamin and Franklin will loosen your lips,” Joseph said, slipping a pair of hundreds across the counter. She casually accepted them, shoving the hundreds into her bra.
“I’m looking for…” Joseph pondered his words. “Well, it’s a little out of the way. Great place to go if you don’t want to be found.”
“There’s lots of places like that around here,” the waitress said.
“A place that shelters monsters.”
The waitress gave him a once over.
“What is it you do exactly?” she asked.
“I’m an exterminator.”
“You don’t look like any exterminator I’ve ever seen.”
“There’s plenty of abandoned homes and burned-out apartment buildings, homeless camps and community housing projects that people can just disappear in.”
“They say eyes are the window to the soul. You ever look into someone’s eyes and see nothing?” Joseph asked. The waitress shifted uncomfortably.
“Doesn’t matter how deep and dark and empty they look, there’s always something there. People can’t hide their nature. But have you looked in someone’s eyes and really, truly saw nothing? That’s the kind of thing I’m looking for. Things with eyes like mirrors, not windows. The truly soulless, Darlene.”
The waitress instinctually covered her name tag.
“I might of heard some things,” she began.
An hour later, Joseph was walking through a maze of alleys and side streets that a lost tourist could have ended up trapped in for days. He was getting close to his prize. His nose itched with the scent of copper and must. He turned one final corner and ran into an old man, black skin and white hair, sitting on a crate with a tarp thrown over it.
“Was wondering when you’d show up,” the old man said. “Or someone like you.”
“What do you want, old man?” Joseph asked.
“A minute of your time.”
“That’s all you get.”
“Why are you here? Truly, honestly?”
“I have a job to do,” Joseph replied.
“You’re getting paid very well, I’m sure, but this isn’t a job to you, is it? You’re on a mission from God. A path of blood and vengeance that won’t end in your lifetime.”
“This ain’t a war. I’m not a soldier. Just a…”
“A what? A gun for hire?”
“Are you going to get out of my way?” Joseph asked.
“There are rules, son. Old rules. Older than any law ever put to stone by man. This is a place of refuge. Those who dwell within are refugees. Don’t violate the sanctity of this place with your earthly aims.”
“That’s not for me to say.”
“You know what’s in there. You know why I have to do this.”
“I’m aware. If I were you, I’d let karma sort it out. Karma sorts out everything in the end.”
A silencer to the ribs ended the conversation. Plip plip plip. An eternal ellipsis, never to be continued. Joseph laid the old man down.
“The people who hired me can’t wait for karma. They want justice.”
Joseph closed the old man’s eyes. Empty windows.
He entered the fenced-off side street. A hundred monsters turned to look at him. They had few visitors, but the few they had for sure didn’t look like this guy.
“Who are you? HAHAHAHA!” the small red one asked with a jovial laugh.
“Well, tickle me pink. All of you are here,” Joseph said, drawing a crossbow and a rune crested revolver.
“Oh no! We don’t appwoove of gun violence here!” the red one said.
“Don’t worry. These aren’t technically guns.”
“Oh. Okay. Well then…”
The red one’s head exploded and it fell over in a pile of gore.
The monsters glared at Joseph with shiny polished eyes. Eyes that betrayed nothing of empathy or mercy. Eyes that reflected the world back out.
“Kill this fucker! Ah, ah, ah,” the vampire commanded.
“Save me the sweet meats! Num num num!” the biscuit muncher said.
“Uh guys, maybe we should take a moment and talk about this,” the giant vermillion bird said.
The monsters flung themselves at Joseph.
“This massacre is brought to you by the letter M,” he spat.
Holy crossbow bolts and blessed revolver bullets rained down on them. The first wave fell to Joseph’s onslaught. The monster hunter dropped his weapons and drew his anointed sword as the second wave crashed into him. The trashcan monster was stabbed through the face and died in his own excrement. The biscuit muncher got a handful of sanctified hand grenades down the gullet, blowing him up from the inside. The vampire exploded into dust when his heart was pierced with a rotted wooden plank ripped off the fence. The giant bird squawked in pain as his muscular legs were chopped off at the ankle by a sigil forged axe.
Dozens more fell to Joseph’s weapons before they turned tail and ran. The monster hunter would find them later. His target was slowly crawling away, trailing bloody stumps. Joseph stepped on the bird’s leg, making him squawk in pain and terror.
“Why are you doing this? Please have mercy!” he begged in a nasal honk.
“Mercy. Like the kind you showed little Chelsea and Hannah and baby Marcus?” Joseph asked. The bird shook his giant head.
“A guy’s gotta eat. Don’t hate me for being who I am,” the giant bird said, staring dead eyed at Joseph. The monster hunter grimaced, seeing his blood covered visage reflected in the bird’s eyes.
“It’s just a job, big guy. I stopped hating your kind a long time ago.”
“Well, maybe I can make it worth your…”
Joseph blew the bird’s head away with a sawed-off shotgun.
“Like mirrors,” Joseph told himself. “Just like mirrors…”
Well that was something, huh?
Next up is the unequaled Anisha of the magical land of magicquill17.
#4. The last thing Descartes expected after being hooked on to Desmos after being rudely spat out in the 21st century was…
Okay. Okay. A bit of a challenge. Let’s see what I came up with!
JE PENSE, DONC JE SUIS
In the year 1616, Rene Descartes found himself at a crossroads in life. Having just earned a Baccaleureat and Licence in canon and civil law according to his father’s wishes (his father wanted him to become a lawyer you see), Descartes decided to move to Paris. There he entirely abandoned the study of letters. He’d gotten it in his head that knowledge, true knowledge, had to come from his own direct experience. He resolved to travel the world, see all sorts of exciting people and places in hopes of expanding his own horizons. How curious, then, that during these travels he would end up stepping through a ripple in time and space only to be rudely spat out in the 21st Century.
“Saintes boules de merde! Qu’est-ce que c’est que ça?” was the first thing he said. “L’odeur. Où est-il allé? Qu’est-ce que tout cela?” came shortly after.
“Ça va, bon monsieur?” a woman passing by asked, concern in her voice.
“Je crains d’être perdu. Dites-moi où cela…”
You look confused dear reader. You do read French, don’t you? No? Oh dear. Hmm… perhaps a bit of magical translation is in order. Here you are.
“What fresh hell have I stepped into?” Descartes asked.
“What do you mean?” the woman asked.
“This place, it’s like something that crawled out of Hieronymous Bosch’s head. The roads, the buildings, the carriages sans horses, the clothes. What is going on here?”
“Are you well, sir? Do you need a hospital?”
“I don’t need a blood letting, woman. I need to wake up!”
“Okay. Whatever, weirdo.”
Descartes was left alone. He wandered the now crowded streets that were once the empty outskirts of Paris. The sights and sounds and smells offended him. It was too bright, too loud, too… clean?
Eventually, the dreadfully confused man ended up at an internet cafe. He had no notion of what the strange looking boxes and opaque mirrors on the tables were, but he sat to rest his feet anyway.
“How long?” the cafe attendant asked.
“Excuse me?” Descartes replied.
“How long will you be?” the attendant asked again.
“As long as I need. I don’t know.”
“Why don’t we start you off at a half hour, hmm?”
“Fine. Tell me, woman, what is this on the table?”
“You’re funny. Nice cosplay, by the way.”
The attendant left him alone. Descartes wondered where he was supposed to put his food and drink with the box, the mirror and the button board in the way.
That’s when something caught his eye. Someone was performing a mathematical function, using the button board to manipulate the mirror that wasn’t a mirror. At last, something he recognized. The beautiful universal language that knew not time nor distance but made up the two of them.
“You there. What is this you are doing?”
“Um. It’s my college assignment,” the college student replied.
“Good God, they let women into college? What kind of world is this?”
“Is this some kind of prank or something?” the college student asked, getting very annoyed and offended.
“I don’t understand. I don’t understand what happened to me. Nothing makes sense anymore. What is true and what is false has completely upended. I am at a loss. My faculties have surely broken. I am mad. I have gone mad!”
“Whoa, okay. Take it easy, buddy. Here, uh, why don’t you have a seat and look at the graph.”
“You would permit me use of this wonder?” Descartes asked.
“Sure, bud. Just hang tight,” the college student said, dialing 1-1-2 in her phone.
Descartes sat before the miraculous device. A simple wave graph stared back at him from the not mirror. The equations…
A beautiful double wave in red and green. Finally. Something that made sense when nothing else did.
“What is this?” Descartes asked.
“A graph?” the college student replied.
“No no. This… I don’t have the words. It…”
“It’s just Desmos, man.”
“From the Greek,” Descartes said. “A bond or a tie.”
“Are you crying?”
“I know nothing. Like Socrates I fall shorter of what I think I know the more I learn. What can a man know if he can’t truly know anything?”
“Hello? Yeah, a crazy guy just walked up to me and I think he’s having a mental breakdown,” the college student said into her phone.
Descartes’ mind began to race. Everything he knew, everything he thought was even possible, had been thrown out the window like so much shit water. One step in the world he knew, the next here in this impossible one. A vision sent from God? A madness inflicted by the devil? Or spoiled bread, perhaps? How could he possibly know either way? What could a man know for certain in a crazy world such as this?
Then the thought hit him like a ton of paving stones. What could one know for certain if they could know nothing for certain? Only one thing. That to know something, there had to be something to do the knowing. To think a thought, there had to be a thinker. And so, a seed planted in his head many years ago began to germinate. A thought that would change science and philosophy for all time.
“Je pense, donc je suis.”
“Wait, what did you say?” the college student asked.
But the man was gone.
Well. There we are. Hopefully Descartes doesn’t mind a slight fictionalization of his early life.
Ahem. Anyways. That’s it! That’s everything! Woo! I did it. A four short story extravaganza to celebrate 7 whole god damn years writing on WordPress. It’s been an honor and a pleasure and a whole lot of fun. There are lots of great talents on here and I’m happy I got to be a part of this word slurry drifting through the word ocean called the internet.
Here’s to 7 more years? I dunno. I’m not good at hosting Blogaversaries.
Oh! I know! How about I give all of you a writing prompt! Yeah, that sounds like fun! Okay, I’ll put the prompt down below and you guys write a short (500 or so words? IDK, you decide) story and link it in the comments.
Writing Prompt: I put my heart in a locket, but I’ll never give it to you.