Thursday, February 06, 2014

Fragment, Found on a Disk.

Sometimes I'll search my old computer files and find little bits of stories and story/novel ideas that never went any farther than a few paragraphs. They sit there, lonely, waiting for the creator to return.

Here's one I stumbled across today. I don't even recall where I was going with it, because I can find no accompanying plot or notations.

"The Old Vicar"
By James Robert Smith.

At first, there weren't any ghosts.
 This was for a time after the machines stopped working and the fuels everyone once depended upon had become useless. People went into a panic, I've been told. They were like animals for a while, and then everyone learned that life was no worse than before, only different. People died because they were far from help and travel was slow; but the world was bigger. Images couldn't be sent through the air to homes all over the land; but books were precious again. No one could climb into those metal boxes and be transported at great speeds; but the air was clear.

     The Old Vicar had stood on a hill in the day and had pointed at the brilliant, cobalt blue sky and had done his best to explain how dingy the sky had been. It's hard to believe. At night, he had stood on that same hill and we had all looked up at the numberless stars twinkling in the velvet, those untold bits of diamond light scattered, scattered. Before, he had told us, one could not see the stars for the dirty lights mankind had planted all about. I do not think the wonders that could be as great as what are.

     Then, the ghosts came.

    The first ones arrived when I was a child. For a while, I thought that I had brought them in. My mother had me abed with the fever, and I had been delirious for days, the doctor coming to offer medicine and to make sure that water and broth were poured down my throat. On the fourth day of my sickness, when the fever was begining to break, I saw it come into the room, passing like tobacco smoke through the wall. I had thought that my eyes had fooled me and that it was my mother in there with me. For I saw that the figure was a woman; but my mother would not have come like that into my room. My mother would not stand over my bed and leer at me in such a manner, spit drooling down her chin. When the ghost opened its mouth...rather, when the thing's jaws became unhinged and its tongue settled on my chest, I screamed.

   When the others had come, the thing had not vanished. It had hovered over me, and it had seemed to delight in the fear of the others as they wanted to come to me but could not because they were too afraid. Even my mother had been too afraid for a while and only when she, too, screamed and raced to take me up in her arms did the thing retreat. For weeks my mother was obsessed with what the ghost's face had done as it went away. Soon, however, she came to see much worse than that and it became the least of her nightmares.

   Mercifully, for a time, the ghosts came only rarely. And they did not linger, usually only long enough to instill fear and loathing in those who saw them. No one knew why they were there, for no one could recall them from before. The Old Vicar said that there had been no ghosts in the world before mankind's contraptions ceased to work. Mankind's works had kept them at bay, had kept them at bay for at least two hundred years, he had told us. Perhaps the ghosts had returned because they now could. Perhaps, he had told us in that mature, but powerful voice, the ghosts had grown weary of being held at bay and now we knew why motors no longer ran, why fuel no longer burned. Perhaps, and maybe not, for the Old Vicar never claims to have all answers. He is our strength.


Lawrence Roy Aiken said...

Holy shit, I love this. You should definitely return to this once you've discharged your other authorial obligations.

I've been cleaning out the closets in the basement and have found all kinds of crazy stuff I wrote, then abandoned for one reason or another (usually, Something Else came up). It's a topic for another blog post I'm long overdue for writing right now but I have to finish writing the sequel to BLEEDING KANSAS.

Meanwhile, please, sir, may we have some more?

James Robert Smith said...

Thanks. There are some good themes tucked away in there. But I could find no other notes on it. It's possible that I considered the fragment rich enough that I didn't need any notes. Hard to figure myself out--this was culled from a 3.5 floppy that was itself copied from a 5.25 floppy. We're talking decades ago when I wrote it.

Vicki said...

Intriguing... and deep. We have to blame our planetary woes on something, so why not ghosts? It's a good metaphor.

James Robert Smith said...


I'll figure out where I was going with it.