Sandy wandered through the aisles. The store was dim and dusty, but she loved it anyway. The peace, so heavy it swallowed sound, was a comfort she rarely enjoyed, and the scent of much-loved books called to her soul. The books were shelved willy-nilly, with no system that she could discern, but there was always a treasure to be found.
‘Like this one,’ she thought, removing a handwritten journal from the shelf. ‘The Ethereal Adventures of a Restless Revenant. Sounds interesting. I wonder why it was never published?’
Intrigued, she carefully cracked open the cover, mindful of the brittle pages, so absorbed with her find that she never noticed the gently blown dust forming patterns in the air, or the increasing chill causing her skin to goose bump.
She didn’t notice, that is, until… “Boo!”
Cursing, she only just managed to catch herself from dropping the book. “What the actual fuck?” she said, turning to face the rude customer who had startled her.
“Why the hell did you…whoa…” she trailed off, staring at the man behind her. He was striking — that was her first thought — not in the gorgeous supermodel kind of way, but in the normal, everyday sense, with long red hair, dark brown eyes, and freckles. An ordinary kind of beauty. Ordinary, that is, if you ignored the sixties retro fashion, and the six-inch gap between the floor and his feet.
“Peace and love, cutie. Lay it on me, how long I bin hangin’?”
“How long I bin groovin’?”
“Er… I don’t quite…”
The ghost rolled his eyes. “The year, dude. When am I?”
“Oh! It’s March 2021.”
“Far out! You layin’ a trip?”
“Huh?” Sandy considered herself well-read, but this was just confusing.
“You feedin’ me a load?”
“I… don’t have any idea what you’re saying.”
The… spirit? Ghost?… was getting annoyed.
“Man, you gassed or somethin’? Is. It. Really. 2021?”
“Yeah, er…yes.” Sandy blushed. She hadn’t genuinely believed in ghosts until now but, on the rare occasions she indulged her imagination, she’d thought she’d be a little more eloquent than this. Deciding that this ghost was a bit too … too… well, too something, she gingerly replaced the book on the shelf and made her way to the exit.
By the time she arrived home, she’d almost convinced herself she’d imagined everything, until a cool breeze on her neck caused her to spin around.
“What the…?” she said. “Did you follow me home? And were you just blowing on my neck? Why would you do that?”
“Hey man,” the ghost ignored her. “Cool pad.”
“What’s that?” he asked, pointing at the television on the wall.
“TV.” She answered shortly, wondering how to make the guy leave.
“It’s flat, dude!”
“Yes, it is.”
“Who’s the babe?” This time, pointing at a large photo.
“Whoa, dude! I thought you were a chick!”
“I am a chick, I mean woman.”
“How’d you get a wife, then?”
“Gay marriage has been legal for a few years now.”
“Groovy!” he said, with a pleased smile.
“Listen, I don’t mean to be rude, but when will you be going back to your book?”
Sandy looked pointedly at his guilty expression. “I don’t believe you. When?”
He hesitated. “Now, don’t wig out but it’s situation thirty here.”
Sandy sighed in frustration. “What does that even mean?”
“I don’t mean to be heavy, but I don’t rule, you know?”
“You’re avoiding the question. Just spit it out!”
“Well, it’s really no biggie, but I can’t.”
“I can’t kiss off ‘til you’ve bought it.”
Sandy paled. “I’ll never be rid of you?”
He shook his head. “Worse. It’s a drag, but when you kick the bucket, I get to slide, and you get to split to my pad ‘til some wallflower finds the book.”
“I’m stuck with you.” Sandy muttered to herself. “I’m stuck with you for life. Then I’m gonna be you. My life is over.”
She turned to the ghost. “I hate you.” She said. “I’ve only just met you and I hate you.”
“Hey, uncool! Cut me some slack! I’m not stoked either, you know.”
“Joanne’s gonna kill me.” Sandy groaned. “Just, leave me alone for a bit, yeah? I need to process.”
He nodded, but first “Hey, where’s your hover board, dude?”
This story was written in response to a prompt from the Adelaide Uni Writers’ Group:
Categories: Fiction Friday