My Ghost Texts Me: A Group Writing Project

About the Authors

1 Jenna Glover, California – February 21, 2019

2 Dana Benelli, Oregon – February 28, 2019

3 LindaAnn LoSchiavo, New York – March 7, 2019

4 J. James Beaudoin, California – March 14, 2019

5 Jaclyn Morken, Canada – March 21, 2019

6 Jasper Banerjee, London – March 28, 2019

7 Steven Watson, Wisconsin – April 5, 2019

About Dually Noted

Dually Noted is Brink’s exciting group-writing project. New and established writers from around the world come together and can create an ongoing story through weekly installments, or the collection will feature powerful standalone stories. If you have a great idea for the theme, shoot us your 500-word story by Friday night. Our editor will publish the best submission at the beginning of each week.

My Ghost Texts Me

by the Brink Writing Community

 

 

                                                                              Please, Susie

 

I knew she was coming when the sound cut out. I stared into my reflection at my vanity, a hollow rush filling my ears as though I were underwater.

(itchy fabric over my eyes sour gag pushing my tongue back)

This always happened when she came. The first few times I panicked, but now I was grateful. It gave me time to prepare.

(whispers moist breath on my neck)

My cheeks flushed, the second warning. I hurried to the entryway, stopping at the kitchen to grab my pill bottle when I felt the third warning come, twitching fingers.

(pressure it hurt it hurt stop)

At the door, I grabbed my phone and began typing. The fourth and final warning was coming, the headache beginning to pulse, but I ignored it. I had to finish.

#

I took a deep breath. I always felt winded when she left. I held my hands out in front of me. Completely steady. She was gone.

I glanced around: Sertraline pills and the phone, blinking with a new text.

Don’t forget my apt w/ Dr. Faraji @ 9.

Please, Susie.

I frowned, stuffing the phone in my pocket before striding out of the building.

At the corner of Minnesota, I paused. Doctor Faraji’s office was on West Minnesota. I turned east.

I wished she had a job farther than the corner bookstore, but travel was difficult. She always knew when I was coming.

I pulled open the door, the air conditioning bursting against my flushed cheeks.

Janice was at the register, stickering books for this week’s sale.

“What are you doing here?” I demanded.

“Covering for you,” she said, adjusting her glasses. “You called asking for the day.”

“I…did?” I clenched my fists at my sides to stop them from shaking. “Well, I don’t need it anymore, so you can go home.”

“Susie…It’s okay if you need…time after what happened.” She whispered gently as though it were a secret, as though the whole world didn’t know Susie was—

“I’m fine. They caught the guy. He’s probably being shanked in prison as we speak!”

Janice’s eyes widened. Susie didn’t speak like that.

I wasn’t supposed to be here.

I stepped backward, reaching behind me for the door. “Whatever. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“Okay.” Janice gave a halfhearted wave. “Take care.”

Back at Minnesota, I stopped and pulled out the phone. I considered dashing it against the pavement, destroying it and her ability to control my life.

Please, Susie.

It wasn’t fair. Susie was broken, but she was the one allowed to exist and I was considered the sickness, the ghost.

A headache began to pulse.

What did a ghost need with a life anyway?

#

Cars honked, people shouted, sirens wailed.

(sirens police rescue finally)

I shivered in the breeze and glanced around. I was at the corner of Minnesota, facing west, phone held tightly in my palm. There was a new text.

My name’s not Susie.1

 

Zeitgeist

 

I had tried to keep my houseplant alive, but it was fading fast. Its green body sprawled inside the pot, a tendril curling over the lip like a limp hand. Frowning, I stroked through its leaves, pruning the dead bits to find anything salvageable.

Why did I even have a succulent anyway? It’s not like I ever liked them.

Everybody likes succulents, ​my mother’s voice echoed, pronouncing the final word with a particular juiciness. ​How can you not? What a stupid girl, how could I have raised such an embarrassm​—

A buzz went off in my pocket. An alert at the top of my phone:

          REMINDER – Morning medicine

My feet turned towards the bathroom. I hadn’t forgotten. After all, I did this every day. Morning pills, then evening pills. Sunrise and sunset. Actually—my hand stilled as I reached for the bottle—Stacey had reminded me too. Yesterday, after game night. “Us crazies gotta stick together,” she had joked.

          REMINDER – Call home

          REMINDER – Buy groceries

          REMINDER- Feed the dog

I didn’t have a dog.

Funny thing—it was only last year when someone noticed the GUARDIAN parental controls on my phone. Everyone had snatched it away, working together to hack the passcode. “You don’t need that at your age,” my friend had said, looking at me funny. My stomach tilted just thinking about it.

Leaving the bottle, I went back to the living room, automatically tiptoeing through the kitchen. As I turned to my plant, wondering if cacti held funerals, my phone buzzed again. Different this time, insistent like a hornet. ​CASSIE—shrieked my mother—​Remember to water those plants of yours! Honestly, thank god you have such a caring mother—

A snap went off behind my eyes. My fingers flew with the force, propelled the last few millimeters towards ‘Block’.

Silence fell like rain.

Dizziness rushed through my mind. Distantly I became aware that I was breathing like I had two wet sponges in my chest, heaving in, then out. The whole plant drooped, overwatered for its environment. What was the point of keeping it alive?

Maybe some things help, I thought, and then they aren’t needed anymore. Maybe then you learn to let them go. I smiled at the plant. “Thank you.”

Softly, I pressed on the smudged phone surface and held. The glass felt as warm as human skin from being in my pocket, pressed against my body like another part of me. After a few seconds, the squares began to quiver and vibrate in their rows. As if they were scared of me, as if they lined up for execution, as if they too feared being erased and thrown into oblivion.

My fingers tapped, moving like pruning shears. For one moment I saw my face reflected in the screen—a faint outline of a girl I didn’t recognize anymore. A past I had outgrown.

Let it rest in peace.

 

 

The Barefoot Ghost Returns

 


It’s the same dream. It wakes me up each time.
Could it be an unholy ghost’s returned?

Asleep, strange shards of memory poke me
Like spikes. The walls are melancholy now
Since she slipped out that winter, calloused feet
Shoeless although it snowed for hours. Chills
Came creeping into corners by the stove
And stood behind me while I held a knife.

My neighbors said police checked mental wards,
All accident reports, and combed the woods.
They found no trace. Her husband sold the house.

Neglected properties need TLC,
Attract those good at caretaking. It’s strange
Quiet arrives in sudden blasts of cold,
Announcing it resists all ownership.

A text directs me to my fireplace.

Who cut this cord of wood, left embers, ash
Inside the pit? When I bend to smooth sheets,
I sense cool whispering. The window shines,
Reveals it snowed tonight and left fresh prints,
Small, delicate. The person was barefoot.

I am afraid to be responsible,
Afraid to be asked questions. Stop texting me! 

 

 

 

Pestilent Persistence

 

Poul had been forced to change his number. Again.

It did nothing, because the messages still came.

They would pop up at every inconceivable moment, so much so that he reduced his intake on technology. He deleted his social media and other Internet accounts. Adult content included.

It hadn’t mattered. The messenger followed him everywhere else. His email received spam, saying “Help me. Help you. I AM YOU.”

It became more blatant, colleagues and friends starting to forward him messages, such as:

Hey {name},

Please have Poul Daulton respond to me. We’ve been trying to reach out to him via {discontinued service} to assist me. Please make sure he gets this.

WE NEED HELP.

Sincerely,

Poul

So Poul stopped interacting with people via technology, and instead interacted directly.

Summarily, he was considered a security risk and demoted. He no longer had a work email or phone. Human Resources hadn’t quite run into a situation like this before, so they pulled the “CYA” card and began mandatory seminars on IT security, per their legal counsel.

It escalated. Poul was then fired for lack of job performance.

As he was out trying to find a job, his home monitoring system would give him false alerts.

When home, the video doorbell would ring out in Morse code, spelling out “Help-me-help-you-I-am-you.” It eventually spliced old video footage together to give him the aforesaid message.

After disconnecting all of his smart devices, he was left with a dumb TV and a few other basic appliances.

The TV would show him various shows that featured alien abductions, possessed technology, and other paranormal phenomena. This was not done by Poul’s will.

Poul had unplugged everything at that point —including his toothbrush.

Then letters and parcels arrived by post, saying: “Help me. Help you. I am you.”

At that point, his finances were over-extended, his friends were long gone, and strangers were a curse. Whenever he tried to acquire help, his pleas were simply routed elsewhere.

Poul finally succumbed, and was found unresponsive after a wellness check prompted by a courier.

Poul was barely alive when he was brought to the hospital and given services he could not afford.

The messenger had followed; it called Poul on the hospital telephone, and Poul spoke to his attacker directly.

“What. Do. You. Want.”

“Help me. Help you. I am you.”

“You said that,” Poul growled. “How the hell am I supposed to help you?!”

There was a deafening yet serene pause, then:

“Well, Poul, I’m you… and I was hoping you would be able to tell me how I can help you. Because, as funny as this sounds —and you’re going to laugh when I say this —I haven’t a clue where I am, or just how the hell you can help us.

“All I know is this—I am you. And we’re all we’ve got.”

At that point, Poul was done. “Fuck me.”

A steady alarm rang from the monitor, and then all was truly finished. 4

 

Eight Cents

 

He always carries three pennies and a nickel.

I’ll see the coins first, rusted and dull. Always the same amount. He’ll rub them between his fingers, rattle them at me as I leave the apartment, stack them and hold them close so I can watch them tumble. I don’t turn anymore; he lingers in my periphery. I only ever see his hands.

I wake this morning to the sunlight slicing through the blinds and into my eyes. I guess it doesn’t matter that I’ve got another twenty minutes until my alarm, so instead of going back to sleep I cancel it and head for the shower. By the time I’m back in my room to get dressed, the radio is blaring on the station I wake up to every morning. Funny. I thought I turned it off.

When I walk into the kitchen, I know he’s there. That quiver of almost-touch, like fingers hovering at the back of my neck. By the time I make my coffee, he sidles into the edge of sight.

His palms are flat today, the scar on the left heel long and jagged—just like mine, from dropping that glass—but he’s spread the coins over both hands. As if I’ve never seen them before, never counted them.

“What can you buy for eight cents?” I ask aloud.

The microwave is closest today. Insistent beeping draws my eyes. The letters roll across:

I r r e l e v a n t

Nothing new, then.

***

I don’t usually stop on my way to work, but I forgot my water bottle. I park at the convenience store with the sun-bleached sign, and my phone buzzes with a text. Unknown sender:

S e e

I wonder if it’s hard for him, sending these messages. They never make any sense.

The coins clink in my ear as I wander through the store and grab a bottled water. I’ve gotten better at ignoring him, but today he’s more insistent than usual.

I thump the water bottle on the checkout counter, throw in a pack of gum. The cashier hardly glances at me, and I’ve stopped asking others if they can see him. Total’s $4.92, so I slap down a five and she drops the change in my palm. Eight cents. Huh.

The hands are close, closer than ever, as I leave the store. They jerk at me, as if to slap my face, and I duck out of the way. My change falls to the sidewalk. A nearby pedestrian, her arms full of groceries, gives me a wary look before speeding away.

Sighing, I gather my coins from the concrete. When I’ve collected my nickel and three pennies, I turn them over in my hands, frowning. My phone goes off again. I’ll check it in a minute.

The car mounts the curb before I can straighten, but I’m still thinking about what I can get for eight cents.

The answer is, of course, nothing.5

 

LAST WRITES

 

Ding!

“Ignore it. Just… ignore it.”

Ding!

“Breathe. Just, don’t look at the phone. Go back to sleep”

Ding… DING… DING!

“Oh, for heaven’s sake!”

Kishan, picked up the phone, the screen flashed mortician white light that nearly blinded him in the darkness of the night. Five missed messages.

At one time he thought contacting the afterlife would be “cool”. Three months in, he was sure it was not. The initial excitement had utterly worn off. When he downloaded the Séance App, he was doing it as a joke, a laugh. Who would have thought that he’d get stuck with the clingiest ghost in the whole of the afterlife? Urgh.

DING! DING! DING!

“Kill me now” he thought.

This was not going to stop, experience dictated he needed to reply. They had talked for months, the initial glamour of actually talking to the dead possessing Kish, instilling a desire to quiz this ethereal. However, as the months progressed his excitement had faded whereas the spectre’s had not. Swiping open his phone he tapped Messenger. Nine new messages. He imagined each more tedious and more immaterial than the last. Reading them confirmed this.

“Hey, you up?”

“Watssup bro?”

“THE SKY!!! What’s going on bro? ”

“Oh snapple! You must be asleep.” A short break.

“Sorry about all the messages, time isn’t really a thing here HAHA XD XD XD XD”

“Do you still say snapple?”

Kishan’s fingers danced across the screen’s keyboard, “yes.” He lied, hoping the shortness of the reply would stop this foray into further conversation.

“That’s sick bro! What’s a snapple?”

Kishan had grown to hate being called “bro”, partly because it was so… familiar. The ghost seemed to, in many ways, mimic his own parlance yet this “bro” had persisted from the first message. He had for a time assumed the ghost was from New Zealand, he’d seen a Taika Waititi film once and noticed that they said it a lot… but, of course, as with all things of potential interest, the ghost “couldn’t remember”.

Apparently all memories of the world were lost when you die, which, whilst it initially summoned a semblance of sympathy for this ghostly presence, it had soon led to the realisation that a person with no memory makes for rather dull conversation. It was talking to a person with Alzheimer’s but without all of the guilt of youth or obligations of blood.

“Hey?”

“Hey bro… I have to go now.”

Now that, that was strange. Usually that was his line. The finality slapped him across the face.

“Lol, haha what?” Kish waited… nothing

“Hey, u still with me?” … nothing

A perplexing feeling of loss came over him, a peculiar concoction of confusion and concern. Still, no reply. He now felt a phantom pain, as if this most consistent social limb had been severed. Kish pulled himself upright, staring alone at the screen, consumed by the darkness of the night.

“Bro?”…6

My Ghost Texts Me

My ghost texts me. All the time. It’s ridiculous. I changed my phone number, but it didn’t matter, my ghost knew my new number even before I did and before I could even get to my car, my new smart phone was chiming away.

Ding! Ding! Ding! Ding!

Four in a row, I growled as I slid into my beat-up Honda Hooptie. I looked down at my phone and, sure enough, they’re from my ghost. He doesn’t really say much mostly just random comments, like “hey bro, sup man” or “so…whacha doin’?” I’m like, you’re a ghost for crying out loud, you can walk through walls and shit! He simply replies, “Yeah, about that, man…haven’t figured out how to make it work yet. I just fall on my ass.”

So, he texts me, just to make small talk. My girlfriend thought I was joking.

“So let me get this straight,” she said as she stared at the line of texts, “he’s a ghost?”

“Yeah, that’s right.”

“And why does he text you?”

I shrugged. “Why not?”

She shook her head in disbelief. “Let me see your phone.” Snatching it out of my hand, she pecked away at the screen feverishly.

“What color underwear am I wearing, Mr. Ghost?” she asked as she typed away.

Ding!

Her face grew red and she quickly deleted the message, then shoved the phone back in my hand. I stared at her, confused, but she offered no explanation.

“Alright, it’s a ghost,” she replied as she crossed her arms. “And don’t ask him what he said.” she warned as she pointed an angry finger in my direction. Nodding instinctively, I agreed and didn’t dare ask what his response was. At least, not in front of her.

As her car roared to life and the headlights illuminated the side of my apartment building, I gripped my new phone tightly, overcome with both anxiousness and excitement. I couldn’t start a new message to him because he had no number. Obviously. I mean, he’s a ghost, how could he have a phone number? Nope, he uses ESP or some magical power to contact my cell phone. So I sat on my worn leather sofa in my one-bedroom economy apartment with all the lights off, tightness in my chest as my heart stayed in my throat.

What had he said that got her so worked up? And why did she not want me to know, if all she had asked him was what color underwear she was wearing?

It was about one-thirty in the morning when my phone went off.

Ding!

I leapt across my bed, grabbing it off the nightstand as I stared with sleepy eyes at the bright screen.

“Dude.” It was him. I typed as fast as I could. “What did you say to my girlfriend?”

Ding!

“That she wasn’t.”

I plopped back on my bed, laughing. My ghost is a smartass. Not bad.7

 Ghost are a paranormal phenomena—but what would happen if ghosts could confirm their existence? What would happen if your ghost suddenly texts you? This collection explores all the possibilities of a world where ghosts are able to access our technology. So, tell us a 500-word story with this theme! Feel free to borrow characters and locations from other installments. Your section can stand alone or build on what came before. Send us your submissions by Friday for consideration!

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