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Fiction Fantasy Suspense

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Ghost roll

-Oi, come back!

-What do we have here?

From the outside, you could see two thugs pulling a blanket from a battered (haggard?)-looking kid. From the inside, you couldn’t see much, as it was all hazy and dark, and painful. Tiny spots of pink were there though, shyly pulsating, although right now the haze was starting to threaten them.

-Give it to us, it’s too big for a scrawny kid like you.

One of the thugs jerked the blanket away from the kid, while the other one pushed him away.

Laughing, they started running, dragging the blanket through the dusty dirty streets.

The kid cupped his head in his hands, breathing heavily. The whole world was closing in. Here was the big bad world, and he was feeling so small and insignificant, like a lemming, crushed under the weight of the world.

He wiped his tears and got up slowly, wincing.

-Let’s go, buddy, he told himself and started making his way to a nearby night shelter.

Sometimes they let him sleep there in exchange for work. And once he even got given a bagel! It was cold and stale, but it was full of sweet raisins inside and the crust was sweet. At the memory, the pink dots inside flickered and grew slightly bigger.

-I’m Sam Crackwell, I can do this! He said to himself as he trudged down the dark and inhospitable street.

The night chill was settling in now and Sam was trying to pull his tattered cardigan around himself to warm up.

-Ah, those rascals! He suddenly flared up. They tore my blanket! Sam couldn’t believe his eyes, but on the side of the road, behind a car that needed some serious washing, part of his blanket was all bundled up, soaked in the street “waters”. Sam went to pick it up, grabbed it from under the wheel, when he noticed a milky white container that was bathed in the blue light of the night.

-What’s this? Oh, it’s very cold! Sam picked the white container and studied it, blowing warm air over her fingers, for it was indeed cold to the touch.

-I know what this is! A film roll! I wonder who lost it. A furtive look down the street told Sam that no one was around, so he placed it in his pocket, guiltily.

After a moment’s thinking, he decided to change route, turning right instead of walking ahead to where the night shelter was. He stopped suddenly, twenty minutes later and knocked on a window on the basement of a townhouse. Peering inside, he couldn’t see any lights on, but soon heard the sound of a door closing and footsteps coming up the stairs.

-Sam! What’s up, are you alright? Damn, kid, you look worse every time I see you.

-You know me, Tisha, always mischievous.

-Where’s that ragged blanket you carry around? The one from your mother?

-Ah shit, my blanket!


-Sorry, Tisha. It’s just…I found some film and was wondering if I could..maybe…develop it?

-Right now? In the dead of the night?

-If…if that’s ok?

Tisha had a thinking look at the scrawny kid in front of her.

-Alright, come on in. I am already done with the dark room for the night. You know where it is. There are some biscuits and fruit on the counter as well, Sam…

-Thanks, Tisha.

-…and some photos to package if you’re gonna hang around afterwards.

-Count on me, aunt Tisha!

-Told you not to call me “aunt”! I’m only a few years older than you! Now go do your thing, I’ll be in the living room if you need me. And try not to drop bleach on the floor like you did last time, please. You really need to be tidier in the dark room.

-I’ll pay attention! said Sam, his mind already away from the conversation. He loved being in the dark room; it was a safe haven, away from misfortunes, away from the world where his parents were no more and where his sister had turned her back on him. Here it was just him, warm enveloping darkness and the inoffensive rolls of film hung to dry.

Here, he could bring stories to life, and he was about to catch a glimpse into an unknown one.

Sam methodically starting the developing process. With his sleeves up, he was in his element. He submerged the film in developer liquid. The film, just like the case it had been in, was cold.

-Let’s get you up to dry and see what stories you can tell.

-Quite a few, actually, but first you’ve got to get me out of this dark room.

Sam let out a yelp and dropped the film.

-Ouch! What d’you do that for?

Sam looked at the roll of film and poked it.

-Yeah, stop doing that.

-This is crazy. Are you…is the film talking to me?

-Sure, I’ve been called worse names. Over here boy, turn around.

Sam turned around slowly and looked behind him. He couldn’t see much, just some vague furniture contours: Tisha’s cutting table and a couple of cupboards.

-Come by the window, pull the curtains.

Sam did what he was told and as the night light came through he saw a shimmering blue shape shivering just in front of the window.

-What are you? Are you a genie? Did you come out when I opened the film roll?

-I think I’m a ghost, not a genie. And…yes, I seem to have been trapped in that film roll for a while. I think I may have got stuck in a crack in the sidewalk when I suddenly got kicked around, landed on something…I wanna say orange?

-My blanket.

-Aren’t you a little too old to be carrying a blanket around?

-It was from my mum. Or so I think. It doesn’t matter anyway; it’s all broken apart now. I found one of the pieces when I picked you up.

The pink spots inside flickered; of them died out.

-I’d think I’d like to get some air. Would you like to come out with me?

-Yes, kid.

Sam watched as the ghost hovered closer to him.

-Can I touch you?

-I’d rather you didn’t. It’s quite unpleasant.

-But you can go through things?

-I’m not sure, actually. I’m a bit scared to try.

-You’re scared? But you’re a ghost!

-Yeah, and I’ve been trapped in a film roll my whole life..

-How did you die?

The blue light flickered.

-I’m not quite sure. I…I remember feeling happy, content. I think I was with someone I loved. Then I remember fear, intense fear and sadness, desperation and loss.

-I’m sorry.

-Don’t worry. See, the thing is, I don’t remember much afterwards. I don’t think time passes the same way for me, for us ghosts.

-I thought I was going to die a few times. The first time, when my sister and I were separated, after our parents…died. The second, when I went to the night shelter for the first time. And the third, when those thugs took my blanket. I thought they were going to fight me.

-How did it feel? said the ghost. Almost dying.

-It felt cold. And scary. Less and less scary each time, though, as if somehow Death knew I had less to lose each time.

-Your words are very dark for a child. Listen, you should not fear death. I can’t tell you how…beautiful it will be or when it will be, but I can tell you that you can feel dead while being alive.

-Is that how you felt? When you were alive?

-I think so, yes. I seem to remember darkness if I try to think back to the time before death. Darkness and three pink spots. I’m not sure what they mean, but I remember seeing one of them closely before dying.


-Yes, child?

-I’m really cold.

-Don’t worry, I’m here.

-I’m scared, ghost.

-Can I tell you a secret? Other people tried to open the roll and release me but none of them could. They couldn’t even feel the cold. I think you were meant to release me.

Sam smiled. The pink spots flickered. He was meant to make a connection with someone.

-Sam! Sam! Can you hear me? He is so cold…Sam!

-I’ve called an ambulance, ma’am. What was he doing around here?

-He comes to my house sometimes to watch me paint and work with film.

-Do you know him?

-He is my brother. Do you think he will be ok?

-He is very cold, but he has got a pulse and he is breathing.

Outside, it was the dark before the crack of dawn.

Inside, there was a symphony of pink. A flickering blue shape was watching, unseen by anyone. Two of the pink spots he loved before he died were in front of him. One was tall and flickering in and out with worry, the other, smaller one, was lying down smiling.

The Ghost shivered in the dawn light. It understood now.

May 06, 2022 23:01

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1 comment

Twyla Parker
21:24 May 11, 2022

Love your story, but I am curious as to why you don't use quotations when people are talking? Is it a personal preference?


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