A Ghostly Discourse

Submitted into Contest #221 in response to: Write a story where ghosts and the living coexist.... view prompt

35 comments

Fiction Funny Holiday

Thomas and Giles were sitting at the kitchen table preparing for Halloween night. Though the boys were unaware of his presence, Arthur sat at the table listening to his two grandchildren.


“No, the holes in the sheet aren’t the eyes, idiot!” Thomas exclaimed.


“Well, what are they then?” Giles asked. “Is this more comic book knowledge?”


“Listen. The reason a ghost looks like a sheet isn’t because they are white and wavy. It’s because they are invisible. They drape a sheet over themselves so people can see them.”


“Ah, so the holes are like spying holes?”


“Yes… finally! Pass me that carving knife, please.”


“How do they walk through walls then?”


“What? How is that relevant?”


“Well, if they can walk through walls, they can pass through physical stuff without resistance. If they can do that, then the sheet shouldn’t drape over them like they are physical, themselves.”


“Leave the physics out for once, Giles. I am assuming they can control that kind of stuff. Like when someone comes in the room… and they have moved things around.”


“So, they can choose when to be able to interact with the physical world?”


“Yeah, like when Patrick Swayze learns how to touch objects from that funny-looking ghost on the subway.”


“Ah, I see… nice reference. Not seen it. Unscrew that fake blood for me. My hands are tied… Wait, hang on a minute. If they can drape a sheet over themselves, they could just move around with normal clothes. They could even put eyeglasses on… like the invisible man. Why don’t they do that more often?”


“Erm, well, maybe T-shirts, jeans, and stuff are all fashionable looks we cling to in life. Once you’re a ghost, the quicker and easier, the better.”


“So, you’re saying our sense of style disappears when we die? Heaven must look drab.”


“Well, no one said heaven is like a nightclub.” They both laughed. “Don’t kick the chair, Giles.”


“Huh!? Yeah, but anyway, it’s objectively worse. Isn’t heaven supposed to be better?”


“Maybe that is better. People are not clinging to superficial things.”


“That’s deep! So, like, once you’re dead, you shed some of your ego?”


“Yeah, maybe even all of it…”


“Nah, not all of it,” Giles interrupted. “Why would they be moving stuff around if they didn’t have an ego? They still want to be noticed.”


“Good point. Maybe the dead only move things around to help the living,” said Thomas, shrugging.


“Like ghostly altruism? Like giving a warning or a nugget of wisdom. I can buy that.”


The boys continued to tinker with their costumes as Arthur listened. Thomas carefully carved a pumpkin, while Giles decorated a werewolf mask with fake blood drops around the mouth. On the table were various tools and accessories: a carving knife, a rubber bat, the open bottle of fake blood, some glue, and a bag of frozen peas, only half open but spilling out.


“What are you doing with those peas?” Giles asked.


“Err…” Thomas lifted the pumpkin and rotated it in the air. “I’m gonna glue them to the pumpkin’s face for extra features.”


“Carving not enough, eh? Well, it’s gonna be one glamorous pumpkin. Too glamorous for your egoless afterlife.”


“Touché, Giles.” Thomas began gluing peas to the pumpkin, forming green-spotted eyebrows.


“Hang on a minute. So, the holes in a sheet are not the eyes, right. Only eye holes?”


“Back on that, are we? Yeah, that’s right.”     


“Well, does that mean the holes carved in a pumpkin are the same? Is the pumpkin just like a funky motorcycle helmet for some ghostly entity?”


Arthur leaned in closer to the conversation of the boys.


Thomas continued: “Hmm… I think the pumpkin head is different. Like The Pumpkin King in The Nightmare Before Christmas. It’s really just his actual head, isn’t it?”


“Now, that’s a film I have seen! No raunchy pottery in that one… I’m pretty sure his head isn’t an actual pumpkin. It’s kind of a skeleton thing. It’s white anyway.”


“Maybe... You do raise an interesting point, though.” Thomas sat back and pondered. “Now I don’t know what to think anymore. Maybe the pumpkin is some kind of vessel for a ghostly head.”


“Either way, I wonder what kind of physical interactions are happening with the ghost and the physical stuff. Like, how does the ghost’s composition interact with the physical world.”


“This sounds like nerd talk again, Giles.”


“No, but really… My physics teacher said that at the atomic level, most of the atom is just space anyway. Tiny electrons whizzing around a tiny nucleus, with lots of space inside.”


“And?”


“Well, maybe the ghost is made up of the same stuff as all that space in the atom. So, it can go through stuff but interact with the particles when it wants to.”


“Interesting, Giles! So… ghosts are like an inverse Higgs Boson?”


“Alright, Neil deGrasse Tyson!” Giles laughed. “Have you been watching my shows over my shoulder again?”


“Maybe…”


“Well, I think we’re on to something, Thomas.”


“That does leave one question. If a ghost can interact with physical stuff because it is made of the same stuff as the space in atoms, how do they possess people?”


“No, I can’t think of a mechanism for that. Is that even real?” Giles looked to the ceiling in thought.


“Yeah, Giles, I agree. I think possession is nonsense. As I said, ghosts can only do stuff to help the living. Possessing them can only be traumatic and even physically damaging… and if what you say is true, and ghosts have the same composition as the space in atoms, then there is no way they could possibly possess anyone.”


“Then we agree, Thomas. Ghosts can move stuff at will and pass through walls at will; they don’t have the ability to possess people and have absolutely no fashion sense. That doesn’t sound so scary.”


“Agreed, Giles,” laughed Thomas before Giles burst out laughing, also.


Arthur watched the boys for a moment before standing and leaving the room. He walked lightly up the stairs and into the master bedroom.


“You know what I miss about Halloween, Giles?”


“The glorious age of pumpkin glamour?” Giles replied, grinning.


“No, I miss Grandad. Trick-or-treating with him was the best. He had no limits. People would answer the door ready to scare us, and they would end up screaming themselves.”


“Yeah, like when he had that speaker strapped to his chest under his shirt to blast out that scream when he opened his mouth.”


“Yeah, the Wilhelm scream. I guess he was the film buff before me.”


“And he was the physics professor I want to be.”


"The nerd-gene does run strong in you Giles. You did unravel the mystery of ghosts though, i'll give you that!"


"We unravelled the mystery! Science plus Hollywood knowledge goes a long way."


"Yeah, Grandad did like his films. Like when he dressed as Frankenstein and..."


"Frankenstein's monster..."


"Frankenstein, Giles. He was literally wearing a white coat!"


"Oh yeah. Touché Thomas."


"Anyway, he was dressed as Doctor Frankenstein, pretended to hand me the candy bucket and his fake arm fell off at the shoulder. That woman nearly fainted!”


“Oh man, that was hilar…”


The boys heard a creak on the stairs. Both looked to the doorway leading into the hall, then to each other. The creaks grew louder as Arthur descended the steps more heavily.


“Giles? Didn’t Mum go out?” asked Thomas, widening his eyes.


“Yeah, she did. And isn’t Dad at work until 6 p.m.?” His own widening eyes met his brother’s.


“Yeah, they’re both out.”


They looked again to the door in silent anticipation. Arthur walked into the kitchen, and their jaws dropped as they witnessed a sheet floating before them. The top of the sheet draped over something dome-like, and two holes had been crudely cut into a hanging region.


“Look! Underneath, Thomas,” Giles whispered. “No legs.” Thomas was frozen in silence.


Arthur moved closer, and the sheet glided across the kitchen, continuing to hover above the floor. Thomas grabbed Giles by his sleeve, but both remained fastened to their seats. Arthur lifted the sheet upwards from the bottom, revealing nothing, only clear air. Further and further up, the sheet was pulled before being scrunched into a ball before their eyes. Their mouths gaped at the floating mass of white cotton collecting above them. Arthur finally gripped several layers and yanked the sheet upwards. He tossed it into the air, revealing to the boys a pumpkin carved with eye holes and a jagged mouth. The pumpkin floated in isolation six feet above the kitchen floor.


Thomas looked at Giles, and Giles looked back. They both let out a piercing scream and ran out of the kitchen, up the garden, and into the street.


Arthur removed the pumpkin from his head and placed it on the kitchen table. He then began to push frozen peas with the tip of his index finger, one by one. He looked for several seconds at the peas and sat back before dissolving into nothingness for another year. Amongst the various tools and accessories on the table, the peas spelled out:  


Never stop asking questions, boys


Happy Halloween 


October 24, 2023 10:13

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35 comments

Kristi Sturgeon
23:37 Nov 01, 2023

Great story! I really like how curious the boys are, and how grandpa is still encouraging them (and pulling pranks) in ghost form. I assume he only appears on Halloween? I think that’s what you were alluding to at the end. Looking forward to more of your stories!

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Kailani B.
17:24 Nov 01, 2023

What a lighthearted story! I would definitely be the one contributing pop culture facts in this type of conversation.

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Tim Shuman
07:36 Nov 01, 2023

The dialogue paces the story well. The characters fit the adolescent “bro” vibe. I like grandpa’s sense of humor.

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Hannah Lynn
01:50 Oct 31, 2023

What a fun read! I love how Grandad didn’t have to give up his Halloween pranks :)

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Gareth Walcroft
22:09 Oct 30, 2023

This was a pleasure to read. I loved how the grampa was still messing with them

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Tom Skye
22:59 Oct 30, 2023

Thanks so much for reading Gareth. The dialogue was fun to write

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Belladona Vulpa
15:08 Oct 29, 2023

Enjoyable story! I like the discussion, the speculation, and the curiosity of the two grandchildren. “Well, if they can walk through walls, they can pass through physical stuff without resistance. If they can do that, then the sheet shouldn’t drape over them like they are physical, themselves.” -I was thinking about how Flash passes through walls by "phasing" haha “So, you’re saying our sense of style disappears when we die?" -Funny, along with other funny parts of dialogue. The dialogue makes the story read effortlessly. Also, the m...

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Tom Skye
23:04 Oct 30, 2023

Thank you Belladona. It was definitely a dialogue driven story. It was fun trying over rationalize ghosts :)

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Nina H
14:01 Oct 28, 2023

I just love this! How very sweet that he’s still with them and can continue his Halloween mischief! And you threw in the Frankenstein’s monster misconception! Nice!!!

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Tom Skye
23:04 Oct 30, 2023

Thanks for reading Nina. It was fun dialogue to write

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M.A. Grace
22:15 Oct 27, 2023

Great science nerdiness. Fun tale with a smart twist.

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Tom Skye
23:17 Oct 27, 2023

Thanks so much for reading. I did go hard on the nerdy banter in this one :)

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Philip Ebuluofor
19:20 Oct 26, 2023

Fine work. Just know that they prefer being seen in the last clothes they wore when they died. And they prefer also to communicate with their eyes when they make themselves seem by loved ones.

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Tom Skye
22:44 Oct 26, 2023

Thanks for reading Philip. Nice ghost knowledge :)

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Philip Ebuluofor
16:54 Oct 30, 2023

Welcome.

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Jenni Bradshaw
07:49 Oct 26, 2023

Touché Thomas... I mean, Tom ;) Adorable read! Loved the playfulness of Arthur's soul at the end regardless of his physical body being present, or not. We both wrote about ghosts, just in a different way. Maybe we're the ghosts!! Or expanding bubbles crossing thresholds simultaneously ;P

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Tom Skye
22:42 Oct 26, 2023

Thanks for reading Jenni. Yeah there should be a lot of spooky stories next week :)

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01:28 Oct 26, 2023

Really enjoyed the funny banter about ghosts in the beginning. "ghostly altruism" "absolutely no fashion sense" haha so true. And then the debate about how pumpkins fit into the whole Halloween ghostly ecosystem was a good topic. Great story!

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Tom Skye
22:43 Oct 26, 2023

Thanks for reading Scott. Yeah the over-rationalizing ghosts did yield a few interesting theories :)

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Michał Przywara
21:32 Oct 25, 2023

Heh :) A nice story for the season :) The chatter about ghosts, and trying to explain them via a physics based framework, is funny and recognizable. Of course in this case, it's not just two brothers having a laugh as their imaginations run - it turns out they're right. The encounter was spooky, but also wholesome, which ultimately seems to be what halloween is about. I also like the fact that they come to the correct conclusions about ghosts, including that they basically use their abilities to help people, and yet when they're faced with...

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Tom Skye
23:41 Oct 25, 2023

Thanks for reading Michal. Someone else said 'wholesome'. I'm glad it captures the fun side of Halloween

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Laura Eliz
13:50 Oct 25, 2023

This story makes me smile and warms my heart. I felt the spirit of the holiday while reading this. The conversation was so lively. I felt like I was at the table with Thomas and Giles.

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Tom Skye
18:07 Oct 25, 2023

Thanks Laura. I thought the ghost 'debate' would make for some good banter and the Halloween fun kind of grew out of it. Thanks so much for reading

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Danie Holland
11:24 Oct 25, 2023

Tom, I loved so many things about this! At the start, we see the boys posing all these questions about how things work. I loved their curious minds and the way they play with each other. On a bigger note, the part that hit me the hardest was this - Arthur is so quiet at the start, just gently listening to the boys. Then the boys talk about what they missed about him and we see the pieces of him that helped shaped the boys. The film buff, the professor. We see through their conversations what their interests are and how they came into be...

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Tom Skye
18:09 Oct 25, 2023

Thanks Danie. The over-rationalizing back and forth was kind of the original premise, but the the Halloween sentimentality came later and completed it well. I was happy with how the dialogue turned out. Thanks for reading

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Mary Bendickson
21:25 Oct 24, 2023

Cute kids. Funny outcome. Go Gramps.

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Tom Skye
22:34 Oct 24, 2023

Haha thanks so much for reading, Mary. I appreciate it a lot

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Rebecca Miles
19:40 Oct 24, 2023

Can I borrow these kids for a lesson? Their repartee and critical insights could certainly add some pumpkin spice to my average lesson! I did enjoy the moment when all their hypotheses and over rationalisations fell apart when the sheet drifted in; great comic timing! The dialogue tipped me nicely into some musings of my own. Ghosts with no style and the heaven anti-nightclub is a drab old place. I couldn't stop thinking of the phantom pick-up place and what flirting might look like in the afterlife. I think there's mileage for a second com...

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Tom Skye
19:53 Oct 24, 2023

Thanks Rebecca. I thought the kids rationalizing ghosts idea might yield some decent dialogue, so ran with it. Glad it worked out. Thanks so much for the spot on the typo. I'll get it changed. Thanks for reading :)

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Shirley Medhurst
19:37 Oct 24, 2023

Love this playful story, Tom. I must admit at the start I didn’t know where it was leading… but then you revealed Arthur’s playful pun on the grandsons. What a fantastic concept😂

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Tom Skye
21:49 Oct 24, 2023

Thanks so much Shirley. It was an enjoyable little story to write. Thanks so much for reading.

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17:21 Oct 24, 2023

Great fun Tom. Arthur has a great sense of humour even in death! Quite a wholesome story! Thanks for sharing

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Tom Skye
18:14 Oct 24, 2023

Thanks Derrick. I wanted to play around with some dialogue and thought a scientific discussion of ghosts would be amusing.

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AnneMarie Miles
12:58 Oct 24, 2023

Ah-ha! A festive tale! I love Arthur's character. Sweet enough to observe his grandchildren but also funny enough to scare them for fun! The dialogue was great, too, how the boys try to make sense of the physical aspects of ghosts. Humans really do need to rationalize everything, and the argument over the purpose of the eye holes/sheet was very believable. The peas were a great touch - think I might be adding some to my pumpkin this year!

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Tom Skye
18:12 Oct 24, 2023

Thanks. It was actually the error about the ghost being under the sheet, not the actual sheet that inspired the story really. I just thought it would be a funny back and forth if two kids spitballed over the science of ghosts, like it was concrete analysis.

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