The Thing You Fear

I work in a very old building. Parts of it were built in the late 1800s. Over the next thirty years additions were tacked on to the front of the original structure. It has over the years housed many businesses in a variety of industries. Most of them are forgotten, lost in the passing of time.

It was a derelict when the company for which I work bought it. Homeless people were making a home in the dark, cold interior. According to the people who evicted them they spoke of whispered voices in the night. Dry, scraping sounds emanating from and bouncing between the floors and walls.

“It was creepy, but dry.” One man said, as he left the place he called home.

The building was renovated, and the business moved in. Three years later they hired me. I was the first shift receiving supervisor.

It was my job to arrive early, make sure all the systems were accessible, updated, and ready for the day.

Things went smoothly. However, there was always something. Something just out of sight, something just under the noise level of the furnace or fans, always something that caused the dust motes to swirl and dance violently in the bright, morning light coming through the windows. You could sense it, but you couldn’t see it.

One day, while goofing around in the app store, I found a ghost hunting app. It was probably worthless, but it was free. Why not? I reasoned. Installed and registered in my apartment, it found nothing. Not surprising, though, the building is new, just a couple of years old. Aluminum and cardboard are not very welcoming for spirits. And, I reminded myself, “It is just a hoax.”

When I walked into work, though, it started spiking, right in the dock. It didn’t reveal any apparitions in the view finder, but it hummed, and the needles on the little virtual gauges were bouncing wildly, or stuck to the highest reading.

As soon as the elevator door opened the app sent a beeping noise to the little speaker. Scanning the room there was a ghost, showing up on the screen, carrying what looked like a box. His struggles led me to believe it was a heavy box.

I looked up, and there he was, a ghost, carrying a box across the kitchen. Something about the app allowed me to see him. He was dressed in a dusty brown one piece jumper suit that looked comfortable, but ugly.

“Hey, what are you carrying?” I asked, a little too loud, and a lot too rushed. This was new to me, and the shock was dramatic.

Startled, he looked at me, and said, “A box. How can you see me?”

“I don’t know. I got this app for my phone and it made you visible, somehow. I guess. Why are you carrying that big, heavy box?”

“It’s my job. I move boxes around, been doing it for almost three hundred years now.  I take that pile over there and move it over here.” He pointed at a big pile of boxes, boxes that were stacked in front of the refrigerator, and then swept his hand over to a smaller pile of boxes in front of the emergency exit stairwell.

“And then I move them back.” He sat down, a cigarette appeared in his hand, lit and ready to smoke. I about told him he wasn’t allowed to smoke in here, but it seemed kind of silly.

“That sucks,” I said, looking at the ghost sitting on a chair in our company kitchen smoking a cigarette, using his wooden box as a footstool.

“Oh, it ain’t so bad. I used to empty trash in the cafeteria.” He said, pointing in the direction of the customer service department, and I could vaguely see the outlines of a long line, waiting for trays of steaming food, and then dumping them in the trash. “That was awful. Ghosts don’ eat so the trash was always filling up, you really had to move. Here, I can take my time, and stop for a smoke.”

We talked for a while and the afterlife is everywhere, in everything, and nowhere at the same time. And it is not much different than The Life, just longer. Same pointless work, petty bosses, and foolish tasks.  Same repetitious demands, same lack of time.

“I better get back to work. It was nice talking to you. What’s your name, I’ll put in a good word for you with Human Resources, try to get you a good job.”

“Bob, Bob Williams is my name. Thanks, I appreciate that.” I said, and he vanished.

I’ve never opened that app again. Who knew ghosts would be that scary.


author bio:

Tim Clark is a blogger, a warehouse associate, a happily married man (for 28 years) and a proud father, from Columbus, Ohio. He is an occasional and proud contributor to Street Speech, a local homeless advocacy newspaper, and thrilled to be allowed to write a monthly column for The Wild Word.  There are a few others, that can be viewed on his Contently page.