Post-Midnight Drive, Part 2
A Story Prompted by Storymatic
As a way of encouraging (or forcing) myself to be creative while quarantined, and while I procrastinate on revising my work in progress, I busted out my Storymatic cards. I figure a daily writing prompt for my blog will help me commit to writing every day without the pressure that comes along with working on a manuscript that I actually care about. The premise is simple: I have to draw two character cards and two scenario cards, and I have to use those to create some kind of narrative in approximately 500 words. I'll use tomorrow's prompt to continue what I start today. I can't guarantee the story will be any good, but at least it's one more way for me to stay creative when inspiration and motivation are hard to find. (Read Part 1 of the story here.)
He stared at the shadowy figure on his phone screen. It was hard to decipher the specifics about the person — whether male or female, young or old, friendly or menacing — but the fact that it was there in the picture he had taken was indisputable.
He looked back up at the shadowy parking lot as if he might see the ghost in real life now that he had seen it in a picture. Still there was nothing.
“I know you’re there,” he called out.
Silence. He held his breath, wondering whether he would hear any sound or see any movement. The deathly stillness of the rest stop parking lot felt overwhelming.
Sighing, he removed the pump nozzle from his car and hung it back up, then screwed the gas cap in. When he turned to climb back into his car, the ghost stood before him, looking at him curiously with big, dark eyes.
He caught the scream in his throat before it could come out his mouth. His heart hammered. The fear and surprise must have been obvious on his face.
“You can see me?” the ghost asked. It tilted its head—or, at least, it tilted the part of its body that looked most headlike. The ghost was semi shapeless, ethereal, a swirling mass of white smoke that vaguely reminded him of a child’s ghost costume made from a white bedsheet. The ghost even had large, black eyes like two cutouts.
“Yes, I can,” he said. “Are you…are you a ghost?”
“Oh, at last!” the ghost said, its voice rising. “I have found someone.”
“I’ve been waiting in this parking lot for someone to find me,” the ghost said. “I didn’t think we would make contact, of course. I thought I would just follow you home. But if you’re aware of me.”
“Whoa, whoa, whoa,” he said. “Follow me home?”
“Well, of course,” the ghost said. “I am a guardian spirit.”
“Think of it like a ghostly babysitter,” it said. “I am charged with protecting mortals who need me.”
“Need you?” he said. “I don’t need you.”
“I’ve been trapped at this parking lot for weeks,” the ghost continued. “After I followed someone here. I thought she was the mortal I was charged with, but I must have been wrong. I never thought I would make contact with someone who could actually see and hear me though. It must be the full moon!”
Was it a full moon? He looked up at the sky to see the glowing orb passing behind a gray cloud. Yes, it was a full moon. How had he not noticed it until now? No wonder his anxiety was high tonight.
“What’s your name?” the ghost said.
“Uh…Paul.” He couldn’t think of a decent lie on the spot. It wasn’t until it was out of his mouth that he realized it was probably a bad idea. Giving a ghost your name — giving a guardian spirit you name, that is — probably meant the spirit was now bound to you. At least, that was what his anxiety told him in the moment.
“My name,” the ghost said, “is Baudelaire. But you can call me Boo.”
“Boo?” Paul said.
“What’s wrong with Boo?”
A ghost nicknamed Boo. Typical.