Writing in Public 4 (Novella), Chapter 16
“I’m not a ghost exterminator,” Hope said over a meal in the shuttle when they returned. Outside the windows, the day had been sucked up by darkness.
Hope was so worn out that her hands trembled as she tried to scoop up purple goop with, and bless them, a spicy kick. Brooks grimaced at his taste. But he was pretty wimpy when it came to spices.
“Eat even if you don’t feel like it,” Mel said. “And I’m sorry, Hope. I tried to get a better reason than ‘fix it’ from the aliens. I’m afraid I didn’t know what to ask.”
“I just blundered into it myself,” Hope said.
Jian bit into a crunchy vegetable. “Is it possible to kill a ghost?”
“I don’t know how you could kill something that’s already dead,” Brooks said.
Hope stared down at her purple goop. Her brain was so sluggish that it felt stuck in place. Finally words came out, though she wasn’t sure her brain was connected to them.
“The aliens are afraid of the ghost.”
But when she heard it out loud, she knew it was true. People who were afraid of what she did with ghosts didn’t stay away from her. They got angry at her. The anger masked the fear.
“Why would they be afraid of the ghost?” Mel asked.
Hope was on sure footing with this answer. “Lots of reasons. Fear of death…the existence of ghosts puts it right in your face. Reminds us our mortality.”
“Fear of life, too,” Mel murmured. “Sometimes things get so bad that all ghosts remind you is that it won’t end.”
Hope busied herself with purple goop to hide her face. She knew more about the Grauls’ marriage than she wanted.
“Fear of the unknown,” Brooks said. “Can’t see a ghost, but can feel their presence. Feel their emotions. Growing up, I remember there was as spot on the street…every time I walked through it, I felt…something. I couldn’t not avoid that spot, but I always though the monster under the bed was going to reach out and grab me.”
Jian propped her elbow on a seat arm and rested her chin on her hand. “The aliens got very upset when Hope asked about talking to the ghost. Could they fear hearing from the beyond?”
Hope knew the answer, it wasn’t the one she wanted to give. “I need more information about this area. There’s a reason this ghost is tied to this place.”
Mel said, “We’ll try contacting Eric again. Maybe the storm has let up enough that we can get through.” She stood up, stretching her back. “I’m going back to my shuttle. I’ll let you know if I can get in contact.”
Jian ducked her head hiding a smile. “Have fun.”
As she exited, Sanger stuck his stuck his mop head in and rapped on the outside. “Miss Hope in here?”
Hope gave a weary wave.
Sanger hopped up the big step with annoying ease and came over to Hope with a bound notebook. He held it out, then must have seen how tired she was because he set it down next to her.
He grinned, quite pleased with himself. “We gathered data for you. Appearances that we thought were the ghost and when they occurred.”
Jian perked up. “Did you find a lot?”
“I’m not sure how much of it is accurate, Commander. We got into a long discussion about what might be a ghost and what wasn’t and ended up putting it all down.”
“That’s okay,” Hope said. “You have your expertise and I have mine.”
“Can I see it?” Jian asked. “I’ve had enough experience with you that I can do a fast pass through.”
Sanger passed the notebook over.
“Why did you pick this spot?” Hope asked. “I mean, why not a mile away, or closer to Sawyerstown?”
Sanger sprawled into the nearest seat, stretching his legs out. “We didn’t want to be too near Sawyerstown because people would have interrupted. Maybe tried to be helpful.”
Hope licked off her finger. That spice was really good. “But wouldn’t other people finding meteorites be helpful?”
“No. It’s like archeology. We document exactly where we find each meteorite. If someone takes it out of context, we lose valuable data. We wouldn’t even know if a person found it on another planet.”
“Then why here?” Brooks asked.
Sanger shrugged. “The rock. It’s the only landmark for miles around. Even a sandstorm, that rock stands out.”
Brooks grinned at Hope. “I think we need to explore that rock tomorrow.”
Hope said, “As long as I don’t have to climb it. I got muscles now, but not that many.”