the short story project



David, Jack and I loitered outside the dilapidated cabin. We were sat on a log and David warned us that it could be a while before the family got settled and we could start. Together we watched the teenage girl through the window. 

All around us were trees. The kind of imposing firs that would have blocked out the sun if the overcast sky hadn’t beaten them to it. It was three pm and it was already getting dark. If you take that first scene from The Shining and the opening credits of Twin Peaks then hey presto you get the obvious bad omen vibes this place was giving off. (Not that the family moving in to this secluded cabin were even remotely perturbed by the amount of ‘heebie-jeebieness’ present.) 

The father of the house unloaded the belongings from the car. One of his daughters held her phone as high as her arm could reach above her, she waved it frantically.

“Great. There’s absolutely no signal up here.” She said coldly and was met with a pat on the head.

“This move is good for us, honey!” The father: pasty white, in his late forties, red striped polo shirt tucked into chinos, evaded his daughter’s concerns and headed into the house; she made an unladylike gesture in his vicinity and turned quickly back to her phone. The bombshell of a mother – step-mother? – gazed absently at the mass of trees before her as she allowed her husband to carry on with the heavy lifting. She was looking right into us but none of us worried about it.

Meanwhile, the other daughter, the one we had been watching through the window, took her top off to reveal a white bra and Jack abruptly fell through the log he had been perched on.

Yes, Jack fell through the log.

Did I forget to mention the three of us are dead? Four weeks in and I’m still forgetting it’s sort of a crucial piece of information. Did you know around 153,000 people will die on your birthday? Yeah, well on mine, one of them was me. 

“Get a grip Jack,” I said nonchalantly, my eyes darting to David but he wasn’t focused on us ‘petulant children.’ “You’re such a pervert,”

“I’m not a pervert,” Jack croaked. His voice was that of a chronic smoker, every word sounded like it got caught on its way out his mouth, but Jack hadn’t once touched a cigarette in his short life. His cement mixer voice was probably caused by the 32 inch leather belt permanently wrapped around his throat.

See, the first time I met Jack we were both sat in limbo, all plush chairs and white walls to help us cope with the shock or something. Jack had been here longer than I had, I think he was meant to be some sad excuse for a welcoming committee, he turned to me and said:

“Do you know what’s worse than dying?”

I didn’t. 

“Dying with a boner.” Jack didn’t blush when he told me. No, he was way past embarrassment and well into the realm of self deprecation, he continued on: “And do you know what’s worse than being dead with a boner? Your mother being the one to find you dead with a boner. Worse than that? Your mother being the one to find you swinging from the rafters wearing a batman costume with your still hard dick in your hand and a crystallised snail trail of semen drying on your stomach.”

I had glanced down at his trousers, they were still tented. Did you know corpses could still get it up? Some people call the phenomenon ‘angel lust’ or ‘terminal erection.’

“You win, I guess?”

It was true, my head on collision with a cherry red Toyota Land Cruiser didn’t seem quite as bad anymore. Even the fact it could have been entirely avoided, if the driver in the other car had been fucking looking instead of drinking his iced-mocha Starbucks shit, didn’t seem that bad anymore. 

Jack shrugged, “She still can’t watch The Dark Knight Rises.”




“So, first day on the job.” David spoke and immediately Jack scrambled back onto the log beside him. 

David’s voice was as smooth and professional as a clean shave, his accent was foreign, Texan or Louisianan judging from the cowboy hat that was tipped to cast a shadow over his face. Each of his words were calm and calculated, picked specifically to invoke a reaction: usually fear. He glanced up at me and our eyes met. This was David Hemlock, the most terrifying cowboy of the Wild West, burned in his bed by his wife after she discovered he had been responsible for the murder, dismemberment and cannibalism of twelve prostitutes.

The hat was from a pound shop. The story from Wikipedia. However, it sounded much better than David Peterson, the thirty six year old IT consultant who had made the fatal error of trying to get his toast out with a knife one morning and suffered such extensive burns that his hair, like the rest of him, had blackened and curled up like old paint peeling off the walls. Slowly, he raised one weathered hand and brought down the brim of his hat, obscuring his piercing blue eyes from view, as he did this he knocked his jet black hair and a strand crumbled before my eyes and blew away into the wind as ash.

Did you know nearly 6,000 people a year die tripping up over their own trousers? No matter the story, it can always be worse. 

Regardless, we respected him, he had completed over one hundred and fifty successful hauntings and gained an infamy within the community. To us newbies, he was just as terrifying as his fake persona made him out to be.

“Yeah, first day, little nervous,” I giggled.

“It’s them who’re meant to be nervous. Not you,” David replied, not even gracing me with a look which caused me to giggle again, higher pitched and a little maniacal this time. 

He looked at me then, oh how he looked at me, one eyebrow raised as I grinned so widely back at him that it could have been a Glasgow Smile. David’s lip curled in disgust at my obsequiousness. 

“Listen kid, it’s easy. I once just blew on a ouija board and made a girl piss herself.”

Was I meant to laugh? Was I meant to be in awe?

“I’d love to make someone piss themselves!” My ability to think before I spoke had been severely impacted after my ‘accident’. Another eyebrow raise was directed at me, coupled with an uncomfortable period of silence. I watched Jack slowly shake his head in disbelief.

“Listen, this case is pretty typical. Suburban, nuclear family, historical house. We’ll start slow, levitating chairs or their golden retriever or whatever other basic shit they’ve brought from their semi-detached in Hampstead. Then we’ll give them a chance to get out, which they won’t, so we’ll flash some lights, write ‘LEAVE NOW’ in ketchup on their patio doors, count to ten in an ancient language and Bob’s your uncle there’s your first haunting in the bag.”

I nodded frantically and Jack eagerly drummed his fingers against his shaking leg. The sound of a door closing alerted us to the fact the family had finished their ‘big move.’ I bit my lip hard, expecting to draw blood but feeling nothing. 

“Let’s go, kids.” 

I didn’t like him calling us kids, didn’t he know we’d be kids forever?




“That was easy!” I admitted after the job was done. “My very first screamer!”

“Certainly not my first screamer,” Jack mumbled to himself, side stepping the puddle of urine that was all that remained of our very first haunting. 

“And you did great, kiddo,” David assured me and gently clasped my shoulder. “Bit messy but I suppose that’s all right for a couple first timers.”

If this little corpse could feel warmth I suspect it would have felt it then. 

“Well, we’ve got eternity to perfect it,” Countered Jack with a sitcom smile but David wasn’t listening, instead he began to usher us out the house.

We watched from the doorstep as the terrified family scrambled to escape our ghostly presence. Finally, the father managed to steady his shaking hands long enough to open the car door and soon that cherry red Toyota Land Cruiser, and the family who owned it, veered back into the darkness from whence they came, thoroughly traumatised and narrowly avoiding hitting a tree as they did so. The scare had not improved the father’s driving. 

I watched that car disappear and felt relieved. 

“All right, okay, very good. Now, next week we’re tackling five students who’ve come up here for the summer and the general rule is: If they’re not a virgin, they gotta go.”

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