Our Halloween Flash Fiction event is closing out on the day holiday itself, and in grand fashion. We finish with Leanna Renee Hieber — a powerhouse author of gothic fiction, who’s The Spectral City series can be described as The Alienist + Ghost Detectives (a psychic girl-gang and their favorite friendly ghosts solve crime in 1899 NYC, plus an adorable slow-burn romance.) This is the image that goes with today’s charming ghost story.
Don’t forget to check the info for the Rafflecopter giveaway below the story!! Print books, ebooks, and giftcards are all parts of SEVEN different prize packs!
“You Get Perfect”
It gets better.
You get better.
The very best thing about being a ghost is that the most defining moment of your life you can relive each day! And when you do, you can perfect that single second in time and make it the best moment you’ve ever had.
I now understand every single thing here in the factory where I was killed by the big machine. I know all that I could know about those last beats, right when my thread was snipped by those spinning fate ladies Mum always used to worry me about. And I do it all again. And again.
My name is Martin. I was ten years old when I was trapped by the huge looms- in that tricky place where they were shifting in and out. I don’t think the spinning fate ladies much liked those big monster machines. I do wish the fates hadn’t taken that out on me, though, I’m just a kid. Was.
I run beneath all the strings and the wires and the frames to gather up the loose cotton. That’s my job. Was. That’s the only confusing thing; the words you use. Then. Now. Is. Was.
The factory doesn’t work like a factory any more, not since it became a museum. But some things are the same; the looms are still here. History is trapped here, like me. The coastal sky is still grey. Grey like me.
Can I tell you about all the lovely, fascinating parts, though, of a ghost’s life? I know that might sound funny to you, that I have a life. But I do. I just miss the rest of the people I live with. Lived. I wish they were here. You’ll understand about missing people. But we always have the place. Where it ended. We’ll always have the end.
The very best thing about not having a body is that you can exist with other things. In the same place when a live body passes through. It tickles. I like that. I can feel again, when that happens. I don’t get to laugh much, but I do then.
But the big moment is always the same; The vast loom draws back with a clang, pulled by many women in kerchiefs, and I duck under and collect what’s fallen as quick as I can, just like all my friends, but something went wrong that one time- and I got caught and there was stinging pains and darkness.
No longer. It doesn’t hurt any more is what I mean. It’s okay, don’t worry, it isn’t dark anymore either- unless it’s nighttime and it’s supposed to be.
Now I float through. I’m in and out, I do my work quick and soundless and I am perfect when the women demonstrate how the big looms work for all the tourists who speak different languages.
I don’t really know what they want here, the tourists. It’s just a factory. It’s just a place where you work so you don’t starve. Where you breathe in and swallow the cotton fluff so your stomach feels a little fuller than it did at dawn.
The factory can be quite boring, so I’m surprised people come here all shocked; as if they had no idea where their clothes could possibly have come from. And it’s dangerous if you’re not paying attention. I try to show them. But they’re not watching. So sometimes I have to do things to make them pay attention. The lights usually do the trick.
The lady dressed like Mum- though she’s not my mum, she’s an actress- says it’s a hundred and sixty years since this factory was at it’s “height of production”. That seems like a lot of years and I have a hard time thinking how I can wrap up all my moments around that number.
I guess I’ve gathered up a lot of cotton in a hundred and sixty-four years (see, I was six when I started working here and so I have to add my four years at the factory onto that hundred and sixty. Somebody once told me I was smart if I tried to be, I don’t remember who. It’s odd what I remember and what I don’t).
When the actress mentions me, I try and turn off the lights, to be noticed. They have different kind of lights now, “electric” ones and they’re pretty easy for me to mess about with. When I was alive, we didn’t have lights, not in the factory. Bad idea, that; to have a burning gas-flame around a whole bunch of cotton fluff. Foreman would knock you to the floor if you so much as looked at a cigarette. Whole place could go up in ten minutes. (My friend Billy got at least ten lickings in one month on account of his smokes.) But the “electric” lights don’t have flames. They just glow. Like me.
So, I turn the lights off and then the actress says “now Martin,” in a mum-tone, and I laugh and I show the people my work. Because I’m really good at it after a hundred and sixty-four years. Most people don’t see me, though. Sometimes, children do. We wave to each other. I like that a whole lot. Then I go back to work. Sometimes I turn back on the lights, but usually I let that actress do it. We all have different jobs here at the factory.
A few people get all teary-eyed when the actress talks about the kids that worked here. Don’t kids work in factories where they come from? Maybe they’re all too fancy and rich to know any kids who got fingers, hands or legs cut off at work. Maybe there aren’t factories for kids to work in any more. The actress says something about labor laws.
At night, sometimes people with devices come in and talk in excited, hushed tones. They have strange things with them that I don’t recognize; small machines unlike anything in the factory. “Cameras” and “recorders” and “infra-red” glasses, so I hear- they look very silly wearing them.
They set up all their toys and watch for something. I’m not really sure what they’re looking for. But I keep working anyway, through the night, and if I mess with the lights, they love it, they make noise and clap and say that was ‘a really good one’ or “oh-em-gee we’re going to be famous on Most Haunted”- Whatever that is. But sometimes I’m not in the mood to play with them, I’m too focused on my job.
Because my job, that’s what I do. And what I do is who I am. Even if the long loom does not move, I dart under it, nonetheless, and do my work. I have perfected my moments. The things I remember I remember well. I understand every moving part in this building. I’m part of the moving parts. I’m part of its history. I am Martin and I am a part of this museum. It wouldn’t be the same without me.
Those people who monitor me at night on their strange devices sometimes talk about me in ways that are quite rude. They say I’m just an echo, a “psychic imprint”. Not a trapped soul, but a soulless moment on repeat. A “skipping record”? A residual image on the inside of your eyes.
They say that echoes cannot feel, or “feel passionate” about anything any longer. That is a downright lie. I feel very ‘passionate’ about turning the lights off on people. And I have a name. My name is Martin. Does an echo have a name? I don’t think so.
You’ll enjoy being a ghost like me. I’m glad you’re here. I’m glad you exist. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
What you already know, you know well, and you won’t ever forget, because you just keep doing what you’ve always been doing. There’s a comfort in that.
Mum always said nobody was perfect. Well, I don’t rightly know about that, did they have all the time in the world for one specific, very important thing? Because I have, now, and I’m proud of how practiced I’ve become.
So what if you repeat yourself? So what if you skip? Skipping is fun.
It gets better.
I promise. You’ll like it. Being a ghost.
You get better.
In fact, you get perfect.
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