Weekly short story post! This one is very short and began with thinking about ghosts and hauntings. I don’t believe ghosts are real but I really wish they were. If I was able to haunt people, I imagine I would do so in a way that is consistent with my current sense of humor.
That, in a nutshell, is where this story came from.
“Of course before you sign the rental agreement, I must tell you the apartment is haunted.”
Janet’s signature was half completed when the agent casually threw out a fact her attitude suggested wasn’t particularly important. She managed to stop herself from completing the scrawl, but just barely.
In all fairness, every apartment had problems. Every time she moved, Janet would spend the first few months discovering all the “features” her rental agent had neglected to mention. In this apartment, she had already noticed the peeling paint in the shower stall, the pet hair clogging the vents, and window blinds that closed just enough to ensure sunlight would be in her eyes almost all day but not enough to keep out the chilly air in the winter.
That was all fine. She knew how to paint and clean vents and new blinds were fairly cheap. Ghosts, however, were another matter.
Paula was ready with a response. She’d been through this conversation with many renters over the years and she knew how to allay their fears.
“Yes, haunted. Nothing to worry about, though.”
“Nothing to worry about?” Janet interjected, “My cousin lived in a haunted apartment a few years ago and that ghost was a complete asshole. Every time they sat down to dinner, he would add salt to all of their food before they could take a single bite. Until they stopped pre-salting the food. Then he’d hide the salt shaker. They had to eat out for every meal. It cost them a fortune!”
Hauntings weren’t particularly unusual. Ever since the much publicized dispute between God and Lucifer over zoning rights, souls were having considerable trouble finding eternal rest. The living and the dead had to adjust and, for the most part, things were fairly civil.
You had to disclose a haunting, though. That Paula had waited so long to bring it up was suspicious.
“Well,” Paula smiled, “this ghost is very tame. She’s a bit of a prankster but from what I understand, she’s in bed by 9:00 and doesn’t believe in waking up her apartment mates early on weekends.”
“What kind of pranks are we talking about? I don’t mind a few missing pieces of silverware here and there but I don’t like taking cold showers.”
Paula shook her head patiently. “She wouldn’t do anything like that. Actually, she was involved in the theater so she has a tendency to create little plays in which you take a lead role. I think it helps keep her connected to her old life.”
“What kind of plays?”
“Oh, after you order a pizza for delivery, she’ll call the store back and tell them to make a big deal because it’s your birthday. Or she’ll send your boyfriend a message saying he’d better come over right away or you’ll break up with him. Or – heh heh – she’ll call the police about a domestic dispute when you and your partner are engaging in particularly animated sex play.”
“Some of those things seem annoying.”
Paula laughed “Oh they are! They are! But they make for great stories at parties! And if you ever get really annoyed, there are a lot of good ghost silencing options out there.”
“I know – they have ads for them on TV all the time – but most of them are quite expensive!”
“Look, living with a ghost can be a challenge but I think most of my clients would agree that it wasn’t so bad. Ghosts definitely make effective burglar alarms, you never have to watch a movie alone, and I’ve never known a ghost who wouldn’t return a rental on a cold night so you don’t have to go outside.”
Janet looked at the signature block. Living with a ghost made her uncomfortable but she couldn’t deny that it also felt pretty exciting.
“Give it a try! It’s only a three month lease!”
“Fine,” Janet sighed,”every now and again, you have to try something new!”
She finished her signature and slid the paper across the table to Paula.
Paula smiled as she rolled up the contract. “You won’t regret this!”
“When can I move in?”
“As soon as you want! Here is a key to the front door. I’m just going to take these papers down to my car and I’ll be right back!”
Paula walked out the door and Janet could hear her footsteps headed down the stairs. She looked around the apartment and wondered when she might meet her new living companion. She should have asked Paula for the name of her new “roommate.”
A short while later, she could hear footsteps coming up the stairs and a key at the door. Strange, she thought, she didn’t remember Paula locking the door.
Stranger still, the door opened and a young man walked in, his arms full of grocery bags.
“Um, I think you have the wrong apartment,” she told him helpfully.
“No,” came the tired reply, “no I don’t. God damn it. HARRIET!”
A young woman’s voice came from the bottom of the stairs. “What is it Ned?”
“She leased out the apartment again!”
From somewhere in the apartment – probably the bedroom – Paula laughed.