Creating a Ghost short story by Iris Carden
The lecturer stood in front of the class of about thirty students. Beside him was a figure that could have been seated human, covered completely with a painter’s canvas drop-cloth.
“Throughout your studies you have learned about almost all aspects of the paranormal. You’ve studied everything from boogeymen to magic, to unicorns, to fairies, to cryptozoology.
“This semester we have focussed exclusively on the subject of ghosts. You know how to locate ghosts, how to record them, how to banish them. For this final lecture, of your final semester, before you go out into the world as qualified paranormal investigators, we are going to cover the ultimate question. Not every person who dies becomes a ghost, or the world would be over populated with them. So why does one person become a ghost and another not? How, in short, do you create a ghost?
“Ghosts come about when someone dies with a reason to stay behind. It could be love, or it could be anger or resentment or betrayal. It could be a desire for vengeance or justice. It always involves extreme emotions.
“Today’s lecture will be practical. We are going to demonstrate how to take a very ordinary human being and make them into a ghost.”
There were whispers among the students. This was what they’d done three years of this nonsense course for. The story had passed from previous students as rumour or innuendo. It was never officially confirmed, and there was never an alert to the authorities, but students just knew. They knew if they sat through three years of lectures, this day would come.
The lecturer lifted the drop sheet. A woman was bound and gagged, tied to a chair. “Let me introduce Marleen, everyone. Marleen here is about to become a ghost.” The woman was clearly shaking, was pale, her eyes wide.
“If we’d just collected Marleen off the street for this demonstration, the fear she is feeling now might be sufficient to cause her to stay after death, but it couldn’t be guaranteed. To be sure, we need a stronger emotional response than fear alone. Betrayal, ultimate betrayal, that’s what will guarantee it.
“You all know my assistant Geoff.”
A handsome man, tall, well-built, with piercing blue eyes, and dark hair stood up, and acknowledged applause from the students. He walked up to the front of the room, and stood on the opposite side of Marleen to the lecturer.
The lecture continued: “We began preparation for today six months ago. Geoff approached Marleen at a coffee shop. Notice Marleen is a little overweight, and there is a small birthmark on the side of her face. These are things women can be self-conscious about. In fact, if Marleen had been a more self-assured woman, we might have to have found another subject for our experiment. She would have been less likely to take Geoff at face value.
“Geoff began a conversation with her, and asked her on a date. From there he formed a relationship with her. He gave her many gifts and many compliments. He was utterly charming, and thoroughly convinced her that he loved her. She, in turn, fell deeply in love with him. She learned to trust him, and depend on him.
“So today, when Geoff knocked her unconscious and tied her up to bring her here, it felt to her as an act of betrayal. She is not only terrified, but also feels deeply confused and betrayed. In a moment, she is going to desperately want vengeance.”
Geoff opened a box on a table at the side of the room and came back with a large knife.
“A stab to the abdomen will cause a slow death, allowing the subject a great deal of time to gather all of her anger, resentment, fear and hatred together. Remember, a slow death is far more likely to create a ghost. Knowing she is dying will cause strong emotions.”
Geoff lifted his hand with the knife, but instead of plunging it in her stomach, he turned it back and stabbed himself. He yelled, and was clearly horrified, as his hand, seemingly of its own volition stabbed him over and over again.
The students looked at each other, confused, and looked back at the lecturer, to see he was actually frightened.
Next, the lecturer was thrown across the room, and unseen hands held him against the wall.
Marleen was freed from her bindings. She appeared to be listening to something no-one else could hear. She nodded, stood up, and spoke: “For a decade, women have been murdered in this room by these two men, with others watching, and no-one has done anything to stop it. No more. The victims will have their revenge, first on these men, and then on everyone who has allowed this to continue.
“You cannot defy these women. Everything this man taught you is nonsense. If he knew how to dispel a ghost, the women who preceded me would not be here now. Now run!”
As chaos broke out among the student’s chairs, the woman said, “Oh wait, that last was meant for me to do, not to tell you.”
She ran. As she ran, students were pushed out of her way. The classroom door opened for her, then closed as soon as she was out.
She ran outside. She stood on the university lawn, looking back on the Paranormal Sciences building she had just escaped, when the whole building erupted in flames.