“It doesn’t look very haunted.” Edwin said, the glasses he wore solely for effect sliding down his nose.
Clapping a hand on the younger man’s shoulder, Biff Ranley (known on ghost hunting forums as Buff Manly, a nickname he did his best to encourage) drew Edwin forward towards the Osega County library. “It’ll be fine—with the sun down and some spooky music overlaid, we’ll have people claiming they saw shadowmen all over the place.”
Inside was better. Dust covered books sat untouched in staggered bookcases, the uneven rows casting strange shadows in every direction. At night, with flashlights exaggerating the effect, the room would be alive with strange movements.
“Make sure you get some shots of that broken clock, for atmosphere. We could move the hands around to twelve, make that part of the story. The clock, and perhaps the library itself, is stuck in an eternal midnight. We’ll workshop that.”
Edwin nodded, readying the hi-def camera he held to take a quick shot of the clock.
The mechanical sound of the camera proved an eerie counterpoint to the distant hum of traffic. Buzzing fluorescent lights overhead cast grim, yellowed light down onto the only slightly paler carpet. It may have been beige, once, but was now closer to a dingy grey, the accumulates stains of dust and neglect immediately apparent.
Biff grinned, slinging his backpack around to grab his camera. With some careful editing, this could be the ghost hunt that finally made ‘The Ghost Gatherers’ famous. Or at least brought them to the attention of one of the better funded ghost hunting teams. Edwin was a necessary foil for Biff’s manly scepticism—the laconic college student easily slipping into the role of quivering nerd. If they succeeded together: great, but if Biff got a better offer, he wouldn’t hesitate to leave Edwin behind.
Snapping a few shots for potential voiceover moments Biff waited for Edwin to finish up, the younger man creaking around the old building, appearing in flashes here and there as he ducked between bookcases in search of short, atmospheric clips.
Yawning, Biff finally lost patience. “I’m about done out here, Edwin. How ‘bout that café we saw a few blocks back for lunch?”
Hearing footsteps behind him, Biff turned, “That eager for a burger, huh?”
There was no one there. “Edwin? I thought we agreed, no stupid pranks.”
Another noise, this time on Biff’s left. A sound like rustling paper, or muffled screams. Biff’s voice cracked as he called out one more time. “I’m taking the car. Meet me at the café when you’re done screwing around!”
Almost running now (though he’d never admit it) Biff almost slammed into the narrow door leading outside, the hinges shrieking as he forced his way out. Sweating and cursing, he made his way to the car, where Edwin sat slumped against the passenger side door.
“You took your time,” Edwin said.
Biff shoved past him to get in the passenger seat, driving would only show how shaky his hands were. But if Edwin didn’t get in soon, he was leaving.
“What’s the hurry, Biff?” Edwin looks over, hand on the steering wheel in no hurry to leave.
“Just drive, Edwin, I’m hungry.”
“Careful, anyone’d think you’d seen a ghost.” Laughing at his crappy joke, Edwin drove.
This is yet another flash fiction piece I wrote for a competition, but I’m pretty happy with this one. The plot is simple, and the tension doesn’t build to an insane degree, but for a little over 500 words (I had it trimmed for the contest but prefer it with a little more detail) I think it builds a setting and two characters pretty well. It has reason for the reader to be against Biff and thus enjoy his fright, and it has an interesting premise and setting (in my opinion).
Usually this is where I’d offer critiques, but other than possibly giving Biff, Edwin and the ghosts more motivation, which was mainly in the interest of brevity, I think this short story is pretty solid. Hopefully you enjoyed it.