These characters are currently part of a larger project I’ve been working on, but this itself is standalone. It was mostly just for character work. That said, it was fun to write.

Sitting on a torn, discolored couch that almost certainly had something moldy hiding between the cushions, Jeremy Park-Hewes watched the client excitedly unfold a Ouija board and place it on the equally discolored coffee table.

If anybody asked Jeremy about his job, he would lie, and say he was a “freelance contract consultant,” a vague enough term that anyone could interpret to mean what they like. He would never tell them that he was the assistant to the town’s local ghost hunter, a big fellow named Lorimer Doonfoot.

Partly because they might ask if “Lorimer Doonfoot” was a fake name, and Jeremy would have to respond that yes, it was absolutely a fake name, and why did they have to even ask, and they didn’t believe in ghosts at all and they simply scared gullible folks for extra money. He wasn’t proud of it, but they did need the extra money.

After an uncomfortable silence, the bathroom door opened and Lorimer Doonfoot walked out. He claimed he needed a moment to process the apartment’s spiritual energy, although he was actually just getting into character and using the bathroom, since Jeremy was positive he heard a toilet flush. Doonfoot was a tall man with a blond beard, who wore a large black coat with hidden shoulder pads to make him look slightly more imposing. If Jeremy didn’t know the guy was just a big theater kid underneath it all, he might’ve thought Doonfoot looked scary.

“Aye, let’s get started, shall we?” Doonfoot said, pretending he was Scottish. He’d used a Ouija board once or twice before, and knew the basics. He would spell out cryptic words as the client decided what they meant, and then he could get specific once he knew what sort of spirit the client was secretly hoping they were haunted by. It worked like a charm, so long as they kept the atmosphere spooky. Which meant that, under no circumstances, could Jeremy point out the Hasbro logo in the corner of the Ouija board, since Hasbro also made Monopoly board games and Transformers toys, which were not spooky.

“Ye said ye felt a spectral presence in yer wonderful home, did ye?” Doonfoot patted the discolored coffee table, hearing a part of it crack. “Aye, I feel it too. It’s coatin’ this place. Markin’ it’s territory. Let’s not waste any time then.”

Doonfoot placed the little planchette on the Ouija board, and began moving it over the letters, secretly watching for little gestures in the client. He settled on the letter H to start with.

“Ah, H,” Doonfoot nodded. “Ya know, it’s thought that this letter dates back to ancient Egypt. You writin’ this down, lad?”

Jeremy already didn’t want to be here anymore. As the client took out their phone, writing down letters as Doonfoot spelled out “Hello,” Jeremy slipped out of the room. He would leave Doonfoot to chew the scenery a while longer, and he knew he wouldn’t be missed.

The apartment wasn’t big, but Jeremy eventually found a depressing back room full of packed shelves, where the client left his books and some old music equipment to collect dust in peace. There was a smell, which Jeremy could only describe as “crusty,” and he had to swat thick dust out of the air in front of him. He had a granola bar in his pocket, and he decided he’d stay in there until he finished it.

Just before he could take a bite of his food, one of the shelves seemed to shuffle behind him. The shelves rocked hard enough that dust poured off and an old paperback fell to the floor. Jeremy thought about picking it up, but decided he didn’t feel like it. He went back to his granola bar.

The next set of shelves began to shake, sending out enough dust into the room that quite a bit of it struck Jeremy. He coughed, brushed it from his hair, and saw some dust was now stuck to his food. This was enough to get his attention that something else might be in the room.

Jeremy peered down at the floor, since his first thought was that a sizable rat was making laps around the back room, maybe even a possum based on how hard it hit the shelves. His next thought was that if it was either of those, he should be leaving. But he didn’t see anything.

Dusty as it now was, part of him still considered eating the granola bar. But he crumpled it up and shoved it back in his pocket, and suddenly he felt the strange presence in the room was much closer, and something raced by his feet, although he couldn’t see it.

Now completely convinced a possum was in the room, Jeremy grew tense. He heard shuffling again, and an invisible presence seemed to run out from behind the shelves and leap up by Jeremy’s waist. He still couldn’t see it, but he felt it enough that he backed away and that something scuttled back into its corner.

Jeremy still didn’t believe in ghosts, but he was willing to admit that something weird was happening. As he heard the thing preparing to run out again, Jeremy wondered if it hadn’t just aimed for his pocket, as opposed to him.

And so he pulled the dusty granola bar back out, and gave it a little shake. Immediately, the air in the room stopped moving, and the presence froze, watching it.

Not tempting fate for a moment longer, Jeremy nodded at where he assumed the thing was, and he tossed the granola bar at the bottom of the shelves. The air around him went wild, and the shelves thundered and more books fell out, but after a moment, the air felt normal again. The presence was gone, as was his granola bar.

Jeremy went back into the living room, and soon enough, they left the client’s apartment. Down in the parking lot, Doonfoot finally gave a long sigh and dropped his character.

“Jeez,” Doonfoot said, without the fake Scottish accent, “That guy had a lot to say to the dead.”

Jeremy’s mind was still on other things.

“There was a possum in the back room,” was all he said.

“For real?” Doonfoot asked. “No wonder he said he felt a presence. You think it was talking through the Ouija board?”

“Nah,” Jeremy said. “I think it was just hungry.”