Four ’til Late excerpt

Brett said, “So what do you think about seeing an actual ghost on the highway back there? Was that cool or what? The guys on The Spook Board will be so jealous! ‘Course it’d have been better if I’d gotten a picture or better yet, video. It was a once-in-a-lifetime, that’s for sure!”

Jimbo snickered.

Gonzo gave him a dirty look. “I don’t know if it was a ghost or not. I don’t think I believe in ghosts. Whatever it was though, it was pretty strange. Anything that can make Brett here scream like a little girl sure is worth the price of admission.”

Brett protested. “Me? I seem to remember you just about going off the road, screaming your head off!”

Jimbo snorted. “You’re both out of your minds. It was fog. It’s a cliché, even. People have always been seeing things in the fog. Down in Bloomington, if you go off the main roads, out into the surrounding country, there’s always fog late at night. I’ve delivered out to the sticks and thought I’d seen all kinds of crazy things. Nothing scarier than this one time though.” He held up a finger while he drank more of his beer to wash down a French fry.

Brett and Gonzo waited.

“This one time, I was down in one of the hollows, out on Old 37, way out there. I don’t think it was in our area, but it was a slow night, and the manager answered the phone and sent me out instead of having me put together boxes or rolling sticks. It was a big order too, so it was worth it in commission alone. Anyway, the fog was thick that night, and every time I went downhill after going over a rise, it was like I was plunging into a cloud bank, I’d have to slow way down to 20 or slower. I was terrified I’d get hit from behind by someone going faster who couldn’t see my taillights. Luckily, it was 2am, and I had the roads to myself. I went on for a long while, it was pretty far out of town, I went up this hill and down into another pool of fog. The whole world went white from my headlights, when something loomed up in front of me. Something big!” He took another dramatic sip.

Brett and Gonzo hadn’t taken a bite or a drink since Jimbo had started talking, and they continued to stare at him, drawn into his story. “I nearly died that night,” Jimbo continued, “The thing reared up and I had to swerve just like Gonzo here did, just to keep from hitting it.” He broke out into a grin as the others were still spellbound, waiting to hear more. “Dang deer almost took out my pickup.”

“Jerk,” said Gonzo, finishing his beer.

Brett snorted and rolled his eyes. “Man, if you’d seen what we saw earlier, you would have known it was a…”

The lights went out. Afterimages of the room swam as Brett’s eyes darted around to see something, anything, in the darkness. Once his eyes started to adjust, Brett could see a few candles in colorful bowls on tables. The dim, flickering light was just enough to turn the locals into eerie silhouettes. The neon beer signs over the bar held a foxfire glow for a few seconds, then faded away. Brett found himself holding his breath. The bartender cursed.

Brett felt a hand shaking his shoulder. “Holy crap! What the hell is that? Look at the TV!” Jimbo’s hissing whisper right next to his ear made Brett jerk his head that direction, and he could feel his feet go ice cold and his breath suck in involuntarily at what he saw.

On the otherwise dead TV that hung in the corner above the back of the bar, there was a hand. It was as if someone was pressing their hand from inside the tube, and the pressure of the palm and fingers, was making the phosphors glow with a faint, sick, greenish light. Brett could see the lines on the palm and the creases in the joints. It seemed to glow brighter and brighter as the image flattened out like the hand was pressing with preternatural strength. Pressing so hard, Brett thought that it might break right through the glass and into the bar. He held his breath, heart pounding in his ears, eyes riveted to the screen. He heard Gonzo swear on the other side of Jimbo.

Then the lights came back on. The jukebox resumed the song it had been playing. The TV itself sprang back to life, showing sportscasters on ESPN discussing football highlights. Brett thought he detected a faint outline of a hand, an afterimage, but it was quickly gone. He looked around, seeing his two stunned friends, but the rest of the patrons just seemed annoyed rather than frightened. One of them kidded the bartender about not paying her bills. Had no one else seen the hand? ghost-TV



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