A Night in the Swamps

Submitted into Contest #221 in response to: Write a story from a ghost’s point of view.... view prompt

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Adventure American Fantasy

Nights in the swamps could render the bravest souls paralyzed with fear. Some nights were better than others, when the moon was full and bright the shadows didn’t dance so much from the distant lights of ships in the channel. But this night was particularly bad. He walked almost a mile down the narrow asphalt road, per the directions from a welder working with him on the ship refit. For the first hundred yards or so his shadow was on the ground in front of him, but gradually as he moved away from the ship and its lights his shadow melded with the darkness. A few minutes later he could see the dim light marking his destination ahead.  There was a single light bulb hanging on a long wire from a pole at the end of a short pier, just as the welder described. He knew smoking was a bad habit and had really cut down since taking the job on the ship—there was no smoking allowed anywhere around the make-shift shipyard. So, he made this unsettling trek right after he got off shift every night. He sat on the end of the pier, his feet nearly reaching the still water below, and watched the little clouds of smoke from his cigarette drift past the light into the blackness.

It was not completely silent out there, the sounds from the ship were faint but a steady hum even this far away. There were animals, birds, fish, furry little otters, muskrats, opossums, raccoons,scurrying about among the trees and tall brush and splashing about in the shallow water along the bayou’s bank.

He heard something move behind him. As he jerked his head around to look back toward the bank the light went out and it was dark, not just dark but devoid of light, no shapes, no shadows, just black in every direction. Again, that noise, “Who’s there!? What the hell do you want? Speak up!”

It was not a human voice. It sounded like some kind of computer-generated speech, very deep, coming from a tunnel, with an echo to it, “I am not your enemy, Paul. I present no threat to you, you must listen to me.”

Paul nearly shouted, “How do you know me? Who the hell are you?”

“I am Samuel, Paul. We were friends. I know you remember me.”

Paul was quiet, trying to make sense of this. His friend Samuel was killed when they were nine years old. Somebody was playing a trick on him, “Samuel died more than ten years ago—I’m asking you again, tell me who you are, what do you want?”

“I was sent to watch over you. You are right, I did die more than ten years ago. What can I tell you that that will convince you I am Samuel?”

Paul was lost, he couldn’t speak, he couldn’t find the strength to stand, “Leave me alone, whoever, whatever you are!”

“What if I tell you who should have died on that day? Then you would know it is me.”

He was back in time, sitting with friends, including Samuel, in the garage behind his family’s home. His seven-year-old brother came rushing into the garage with a gun in his hand, “Look what I found! It was in the closet upstairs.”

Paul shouted, “Timmy, give me that! Are you nuts, that’s a real gun and it probably has bullets in it!” He wrested it from Timmy’s hands. Paul had no idea how to open it to see if it was loaded. His dad had shown him how to shoot, how to put the safety on, and then off to fire it. Timmy was too young to understand how dangerous the gun was.

Samuel or the spirit of Samuel spoke, “I know what is going through your mind. You’re reliving the events of my last moments—there in your father’s garage. I can tell you the rest, Timmy tried to take the gun back from you, he pulled it from your hand, then as he backed away, he pointed it at you. I pushed you aside just as the gun fired and I was shot in the chest.”

“Yeah, it was my fault, no matter how you look at it. I shouldn’t have let Timmy get it back, and besides, it was my brother who shot you—that makes it my fault.”

“I have no ill feelings toward you Paul, I’m not here to exact revenge, I’m here to help you, to protect you.”

Paul didn’t know what to think—this invisible being could read his thoughts. He, it, knew all the secrets. How could this be? “I’m asking again, who are you? What are you? How do you know these things?”

“I am what I said, I am Samuel. I was sent here to watch after you. You are in danger—there will be an explosion on your ship—you will die if you are there, so I must keep you here . . . safe, safe, safe, safe, safe . . .”

“CUT! CUT! Give me lights!”

Huge spotlights lit up the night, all eyes went to the Director.

“What happened with the audio?” He was shouting at the film crew, “Tell me this is fixable, we’re not going to re-do this scene!”

The Sound Engineer spoke up, “I can edit that last line, but I’ll have to take a close look at the equipment to see exactly what happened. Let me check the trailer first to see if we have a back-up.”

The Director, still shouting, “Make it fast. If the clouds start to clear and we lose this dark sky, we’re done. I don’t want to spend another night in this hell-hole.”

Paul was an actor, but in the scene was playing himself. He was standing alone on the pier, “Can I take a little break, I’m dying of thirst out here.” Paul was again reminded of his regret, not the regret of his role in Samuel’s death but in his decision to sell his true story to the movie producer. 

“Sure, take a break, but don’t wander off.”

“Wander off? Where would I wander off to? We’re ten miles from any kind of civilization---I’ll be right here. Where are the water bottles?”

That voice, the voice of Samuel’s spirit answered him, “In the trailer.”

The whole crew broke out in laughter. The Sound Engineer was speaking through the synthesizer just playing around—but not everyone thought it was funny.

Paul was at the open trailer just opening his water bottle and something caught his eye. Something in the trees beyond the lights, not a person, more of a shadow but it looked like a person. It looked like a nine-year-old boy.

October 20, 2023 18:54

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