Writing in Public: Story 4 (Novella), Chapter 10
“What are you looking for?” Brooks asked Hope the next morning.
She’d gotten up at first light. She’d woken Brooks up. While she could have gone out alone–the Marine guard was probably still out there–it was unnecessarily putting herself at risk.
She pondered her response for speaking. What she really wanted to check was the footprints left in the sand. Everyone thought this was a ghost, and so far no ghost had shown itself to her. Granted, that could be the ghost be contrary, like they usually were. Still, the whole thing felt wrong.
But she also wanted to keep an open mind and not assume anything.
So she said, “I don’t know until I see it.”
He chuckled. “Fair enough.”
They left Jian sleeping and eased outside. It was early enough that the world had quieted. The sky was still gray, but the sunrise was already chasing away the chill. The air smelled fresh.
Hope tried to ignore the weariness that pulled at every muscle. All she wanted to do was go back to bed and not get up until heavy gravity was over.
“How can I go to sleep and wake up so tired?” she said.
“It’s not just the gravity,” Brooks said. “It’s the shorter days. Just when you’re getting up to speed, the day’s ending. That four hours makes a lot of difference.”
Two Marines near Mel’s shuttle approached, one male, one female. They had the heavy guns slung over their shoulders, Devil Blaster rifles.
Brooks waved and when they got closer said, “We’re going to have a look around before everyone gets up. Were they any other problems last night?”
“No, Sergeant,” answered the woman. “Dr. Zuver wanted to fix the equipment last night. One of the other shifts had to make him go back inside.”
The Marines walked back to their post.
Hope trudged to the starboard side of the shuttle where she’d heard the pounding. No marks on the side panels. No footprints under or near it either. She couldn’t even tell what the sound had been.
But she knew what had been here. No doubt. She could still feel the ghostly energy. She couldn’t see it, but it felt like it had been splattered all over the hull. The ghost could have walked right thorough the hull to get to her. Why had it stayed outside?
Brooks followed her, hand on his Devil Blaster, letting her wander.
The damage to the rest of the camp was more frightening. One of the tents had collapsed in on itself, the poles like broken sticks. Several of of the tent pegs had been yanked from the sand and hurled away, their orange color standing out against the sand.
Brooks whistled. “That took some work.”
“How so?” Hope asked.
“We pound tent pegs in with mallets. Takes a lot of work to get them out.”
Hope found other things tossed around and scattered. The awning over Mel’s shuttle door had been ripped away and lay in a crumpled pile. The drum that had been used last night for the fire was on its side, ashes spilling over the sand.
She tried to lift it, just to see how heavy it was. Wasn’t happening.
The ghostly energy was all over it, too.
“Could you move this?” she asked.
Brooks shook his head. “Takes two men.”
“The ghost used a lot of energy to do this.”
Hope knelt, laying her hands on the drum, feeling for what the energy was trying to tell her. Ghosts couldn’t physically throw things around like a man could, but they could summon energy that was very destructive. Sometimes they simply wanted to communicate something important, or it was frustration, or–
“Anger,” she said. “It’s angry at something.”
They had walked to the end of the camp. She unscrewed her water bottle and took a drink as she surveyed the damage from this angle.
Stared up at the pointy rock. Except for their shuttle, everything that had been damaged was on a straight line to that rock.