It's Flash Fiction Friday again. Today we start with an image prompt from photographer AlexStoddard, leading to a quick discussion of a pre-construction report.
I'll try to be better about posting flash fiction for those of you who like this sort of thing.
As is often the case, writing community-builder extraordinaire Bliss Morgan started the ball rolling on this. If anyone else takes on the same prompt, you can perhaps find links to their responses here.
By Leonard C Suskin
I know not to clean it out too thoroughly. It's what sets me apart from the other guys.
Oh, I can clear'em all out. The full Murray we call it. In my experience that's best for office buildings. Especially government. You see, they want those places to feel a bit dead, and if we do the full Murray, that's what you get. As dead as the arctic. Soulless places, as if never inhabited before.
Well, there's two problems with that. First is that too empty the place feels dead. A place with no ghosts is to the soul what an anechoic chamber is to the ears. It feels empty and wrong. Ask your acoustic guy if you want no echo.
Second is if we leave the place too empty there's no telling what'll come in. I know it's an island, but I've seen leakage from the sea. Drowning victims are unsettling, nasty ghosts. Leave a wet, cold, scared feeling. You don't want to leave it too empty for a drowner to come in.
What're you building here anyway? Condos? It's usually condos. A hotel? Nice. Maybe I'll walk the room afterwards. Maybe.
Anyway, did you read the report? What we used to have here, obviously, is a sanitarium. Most of the people here were mentally ill. Violently so. The first section of the report list the poltergeists, your noisy spirits. Those we need to get rid of. They're the ones who'll bang around the pans in the kitchen and rattle the plumbing. Yeah, even if it is new. We'll clear all of them out. I promise.
Don't worry; we're doing them a favor. It's a kind of living death to be stuck here afterwards. I'm not a priest, but I always figured after we cut'em loose and get 'em out they'll go on to wherever they were supposed to go. Anyway, there's more.
The ones in the next section seem angry. They won't manifest as loud as the poltergeists, but might give an overall sense of unease and a desire to be outside. We'll need to clear them out too. Especially in a hotel. You don't want to push people to leave, right?
Then there's these last few. These are the ones I'd keep. They're mostly quiet, and felt as if they were waiting for something. That's why the ghosts linger sometimes. I know unfinished business is a cliché, but sometimes a soul can get so used to waiting for something that they keep right on doing it after they die. There's a woman here who gives that off especially strong. You can feel it when you walk through the shell of the old building, especially by where the windows used to be. There's longing, a feel of heaviness, but a faint whiff of hope. The sadness might be a little strong, but taking away the old walls will mute it. She'll still be there, but quieter. They'll still be that longing, and just enough melancholy will filter through to make the place feel tranquil, a bit introspective. People will like having been there and won't know why.
Anyway, that's the recommendation. You'll find it all in the report.
Like I said, it's easy enough to clean 'em all out. What we do is better. The ones that remain will be a part of what you build here, as much as the glass and stone and wood.
What we do is not just cleanup.
What we do is art.