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Speculative Flash Fiction
I wrote this piece based on the Julyprompt. The turn around was much quicker than I normally do with posting fiction, feedback is very much welcome!
The dumpster reeked of rotten food. Liquid leaked out of the bottom and glistened in the triple digit heat. I held my breath and lunged the bag over the edge.
“Watch it!” a tinny voice echoed from inside the dumpster.
I froze. The pile of garbage rustled and all I could do was watch with my breath caught in my chest.
A curly head rose from the trash. A boy, about eight or nine.
“What the hell?” For a moment, I worried about cursing in front of a kid, but what kid digs around in trash, jumping out on women?
He rubbed the back of his head. “What’s in that thing? Bricks?”
“Glass bottles.” I nodded to the building behind me. “From the bar.”
“You’re supposed to recycle glass.” The kid gripped the edge of the dumpster and launched himself up and out.
“Do you see a recycling bin out here?”
He looked around. “S’pose not.” He then lifted a phone and snapped a picture of me.
“Hey!” I swiped for the phone, but he pressed it against his chest.
“Just double checking.” He tapped his screen.
“Double checking what?” I rested my hands on my hips and raised an eyebrow, just like my mom would do when she scolded me as a kid. I quickly dropped my arms.
“That you’re alive.” He didn’t look up from his phone.
I scoffed. “Of course I’m alive.”
He shrugged. “Sometimes it’s hard to tell if I’m talking to a person or ghost.”
I should be getting back to work, but the kid had climbed out of a dumpster talking about ghosts. I couldn’t walk away.
He continued to tap at his phone, leaving me with more questions than answers. He raised it again and snapped a picture of the dumpster. I took that moment to snatch the phone away.
“Hey!” He whined, his face twisted and red.
I held the phone over my head. He jumped twice to reach it but couldn’t come close.
“Give it back you sasquatch!”
I frowned and dropped it in his waiting hands.
“No one teach you about calling people names?”
He went back to his phone. “I should have guessed you weren’t a ghost. The woman that died back here wasn’t a giant.”
I rolled my eyes. “I’m six, three.” His words sunk in slower than I’m proud of. “A woman died?”
He nodded. “According to my research, she overdosed eight years ago. They found her body leaning against the dumpster.”
Who the hell was this kid? I leaned closer to get a look at his phone. “And you’re looking for her ghost?”
“It’s an app. You collect pictures of ghosts.”
“Why would you collect pictures of ghosts?”
He sighed. “You got your phone on you?”
I retrieved my cell from my back pocket. He held his hand out for it, but I hesitated.
“I’m not going to steal it. I just want to install the app.” I gave it to him and he tapped at my screen as he spoke. “I used to see ghosts all the time. But I can’t anymore.”
“You want to see ghosts?”
“Kinda.” He handed me back my phone. An app called “Ghost Adventures” downloaded.
“Why?” I asked.
“I’m looking for someone.” He lifted his phone so I could see. “You collect images of ghosts to buy you addons.” He scrolled through a gallery of dark images with smudges of human forms in each. “I’ve gotten forty-five. I need fifty to buy the explorer addon. Then I can search for specific ghosts.”
“You’re looking for a ghost?”
“Yeah.” He lowered the screen but continued to scroll through his images. “My grandpa. He was the only one who knew what I could do.”
I glanced at the time and it occurred to me that this kid should be at school on a weekday afternoon.
“Your parents know you’re out here digging through trash?”
He glanced at me and then back at his phone.
“Won’t they be worried?” I asked.
“They won’t notice. I’ll be back in time for them to pick me up.”
“Your teachers will notice, though, yeah?”
He shrugged. I wasn’t the kid’s mother. I didn’t care what he did. My phone vibrated in my hand. Ghost Adventures launched.
“How do you take pictures of the ghosts?”
He gestured for my phone again.
“It’s easy,” he said. “You just take pictures like regular, but you can see the ghosts on the screen.” He held my phone up and we studied the camera view as he swept his arm around the area. No ghosts on the screen. He returned my phone. “Guess there’s nothing here.”
I tapped around. Another gimmicky app to waste time on.
“You know. I bet your grandpa is waiting for you at school.”
He clicked his tongue. “I’m not stupid. I’ve looked at school.”
I shrugged. “Maybe he hadn’t gotten there yet. Maybe he’s still getting used to traveling as a ghost.”
“Are you going to call my parents if I don’t go back?”
I thought about it. His mother would worry. “Maybe.”
He sighed. “Fine.”
“You’ll find your grandpa. I have a feeling.”
“Yeah, yeah.” He waved me off as he started toward the sidewalk.
My phone vibrated again. The Ghost Adventures app still ran. I pointed the camera at the kid as he walked away. He wasn’t alone.
A man walked beside him. I peered past my camera, but the boy walked alone again. Back on my phone, the man turned to face me. He was older, in his seventies or eighties, with the same playful grin as the kid. He winked at me and raised his finger to his lips. Then he turned back around and draped his arm over the boy’s shoulder.
I snapped a picture. The image saved to the apps gallery, but the man transformed to a blur. The app congratulated me on my first ghost. I stared at the screen, unsure what to make of it all.
What did you think? I’m really working on developing the characters of my stories. How did these two characters read? Let me know below: