WIP: The Ghost Installers

photo of an electric ghostHere’s a bit from the story I’m trying to finish up today, a young adult piece tentatively entitled “The Ghost Installers.” It actually came out of a dream that I had – a good reason to be keeping a dream journal.

We talked about that recently in a class – the need to listen to your unconscious mind, to pay attention to dreams and serendipitous slips of the tongue. To nourish it with a variety of arts and make sure its senses are satisfied. To give it space in which to express itself. Sometimes when I’m drawing, that’s when a story that’s mentally knotted begins to untwist itself and show me what my mind is trying to do with it.

The dream was just a moment, an image/situation that I won’t describe for fear of spoilers. Talking to Wayne about it the next morning, I found a story idea emerging, which we batted back and forth, applying the classic try/fail, try/fail, try/succeed algorithm, until it was fleshed out to the point that I jotted down a 250 word outline. Now I’m working through that from scene one till the end, but I think if I get stuck along the way, I might try moving to the ending and writing it, advice from this excellent post about writing process by Kameron Hurley that I wanted to point to.

Here’s a bit from the beginning. Penny and her dad have just moved into their new house, so new that pieces of it are still being worked on. It’s two in the morning, and she’s just snuck in after hanging out with her friends in a nearby park.

She had a penlight in her pocket, although the battery was almost out from using it in the park. She crept towards the attic stairs. The solidity of the little light wrapped in her fingers reassured her, although it could hardly be used as a weapon.

Maybe some animal that wandered in? A raccoon or something. Maybe a cat?

She held her breath, as she crept up the stairs. Was that…voices?

“Goddammit, Mysa, hand me the calipers, this one’s a bitch,” someone said.

“Keep your voice down, Brian! There’s a family sleeping downstairs.”

“Who futzed up the schedule? These are supposed to go in before anyone arrives.”

“That’s why this one’s high-priority. They moved in three days ago.”

A mutter of Irritation. “Everything’s high priority.”

Penny swallowed down the lump of fear in her throat. Who are these people and what are they doing here? They sounded like the sort of people who’d been working on the house all along, but why were they installing something at two in the morning? She hesitated, then progressed upward a few more steps. A few more and she’d be able to see what they were doing. Speculations raced through her head, but she couldn’t figure out anything that would fit. This was all too weird.

But the pair, once she could glimpse them, seemed ordinary enough. They wore black coveralls and matching black stocking caps. The taller one was fiddling with something attached to the highest point of the roof. And then she noticed what wasn’t ordinary at all. His feet hung in the air. Unsupported, dangling just enough to show that he wasn’t standing on something that she couldn’t see.

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About Cat

Cat Rambo lives, writes, and teaches by the shores of an eagle-haunted lake in the Pacific Northwest. Her 200+ fiction publications include stories in Asimov's, Clarkesworld Magazine, and the magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. Her story, "Five Ways to Fall in Love on Planet Porcelain," from her collection Near + Far (Hydra House Books), was a 2012 Nebula nominee. Her editorship of Fantasy Magazine earned her a World Fantasy Award nomination in 2012. She is the current President of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA). She is currently working on Exiles of Tabat, the third book of the Tabat Quartet. A new story collection, Neither Here Nor There, appears from Hydra House this fall.
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