Flash Fiction Challenge – Bottom Fishing

There’s a new flash fiction challenge, and here’s the result. I hope the title makes sense at the end.

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Bottom Fishing

If you had asked Ben before it happened, he would have said living in a trailer park was the lowest thing possible. But dying in a trailer park? Holy shit, who knew there was a false bottom on the bottom of the barrel?

Worse still, he seemed stuck here. Crammed in the Sunny Acres Trailer Park as some kind of half-assed ghost, wedged between worlds like an empty beer can jammed in a door. What had he done to deserve this?

Actually, come to think of it, he deserved worse, as hard as it was to imagine anything worse than this. Sure, he’d been a cop, and he put some bad guys away, but … he was kind of a bad guy himself. He stole drugs from kids he arrested, occasionally stole money, lied, and beat the shit out of people he didn’t like. He was, honestly, a piece of shit.

Still, while he was willing to acknowledge he deserved some kind of payback, stuck here for an eternity seemed too damned much. He’d tried to leave the park, but it was like hitting an invisible wall. There was no way around, over, or through. In a way, it figured that hell was a trailer park.

Also, he died here, which must have been some connection. Maybe if he’d died a hero, it would have made a difference, but he was killed by a jealous ex-boyfriend (or current boyfriend? He was never sure … ) because he happened to be screwing his lady. Ben knew she was white trash when he picked her up, but she was willing to fuck him, so he wasn’t super picky. In hindsight, he probably should have been. She must not have died here, as she wasn’t haunting the place. He was pretty sure she’d been shot too. Maybe she didn’t die. Or maybe she did and was a better person than him. Now that was a depressing thought, but it couldn’t have been hard. He set a low bar.

None of these people living in the park seemed to know he was here. He’d seen shows called “Ghosthunters” and the like on TV sets, but they were such bullshit. He’d thought that before, while living, but now that he was a ghost he knew that was the case. Unless there were different kinds of ghosts, he couldn’t manipulate anything physical, and couldn’t get people to notice him under any circumstances. He didn’t seem to leave rooms cold – or at least not cold enough anyone would notice – nor could he “scratch” people or give them the shivers. He may as well have not been in the room. People and ghosts seemed to share space while existing in different realms. Parallel, but never meeting. He would have loved to have caused trouble, he tried, because eternity was fucking boring, but it never worked. He drifted in a timeless, formless hell where he couldn’t even be a pest.

So the day weird shit started happening, he welcomed it. At first he thought it was weird shit in the park itself, but no human seemed aware of it. So it was ghost shit? Christ, why couldn’t there have been a ghost manual of some sort, something to usher him into this nonsense?

Something drew him towards the disturbance, which made a kind of high pitched noise. Ben saw a dark, swirling vortex, like a tornado of night, and it took him a while to realize that no one else in Sunny Acres could see or hear it.

Suddenly there was someone standing beside him. He was an old man, his face a saggy ruin of wrinkles and loose flesh, like the human equivalent of a shar pei. “So what d’ya think this is?”

“No idea. Who the hell are you?”

“Name’s Frank. I’m a floater.”

“Floater?” He knew that term only as it referred to shits and corpses.

“A ghost who isn’t fixed to a place. I wander all over. Kinda got curious about all the negative energy comin’ from here.”

“Ah.” Ben had almost asked ‘What negative energy?’ but that would tip his hand too much. He didn’t want to seem vulnerable in front of a fellow ghost, even though it was all so deeply stupid.

It was then that these dark, snake like shapes started popping out of the ground, breaking through the asphalt without making a mark, suggesting they were more mystical things. “What the hell is this?”

“Never seen this before,” Frank admitted. He scratched his bald scalp. It must have been an affectation, because Ben knew ghosts felt nothing. “I think it’s a good time to leave, though.” With that, he winked out of existence.

“Some of us don’t get that luxury, you know,” he snapped to open air. Asshat.

The snakes had grown to anaconda size, and were continuing to flail in the air like those weird inflatables at car lots. Only these seemed to have fangs – or were they claws? – glistening in the rings of their suction cups. Maybe these weren’t individual snakes at all, but tentacles of a single massive beast.

Which was nuts, because what the hell could be that large? If his guess was right, this thing was at least as big as a double wide. But it was insane, because what could it possibly be.

Ben couldn’t tell if it was one thing or many things moving as one as something round emerged from the swirling vortex, and Ben realized it was a large, bulbous head, like that of an octopus. Except he didn’t know of any black octopi with fangs and a series of a dozen compound eyes, like a weird ass mutant fly. “What the fuck’re you?” Ben exclaimed, not expecting an answer.

The thing made a noise, but it was super hard to hear. Not only was it high pitched, but it seemed to vibrate through his head like a super charged dental drill, and since he didn’t technically have a head, nor could he feel anything usually, this was truly alarming.

The pronged tentacles lashed out towards him, and Ben ran, not sure what else to do. You’d think he’d be impervious since he was a ghost, but since this thing seemed to be supernatural too, he couldn’t take that chance.

What would he do if he was still alive? He’d pull his gun and shoot it, but of course he didn’t have it anymore. But as he ducked behind the manager’s double wide, he suddenly realized he had a gun in a holster on his hip.

It was made of the same weird semi-spectral stuff he was. He could pick it up and take it out, and it looked just like his old service revolver. What did it fire though? Ben couldn’t figure it out, it really didn’t make sense, but did any of this ghost shit? He decided the gun was full of explosive rounds that would hurt whatever the hell that thing was, and then he decided he also had his back up gun as well. Because if he could make the rules, he might as well make them a bit more sporting.

Ben glanced around the trailer and saw some of those questing black tentacles coming towards him, so he shot them, making black holes in them that leaked fog, and made the thing screech at a higher pitch that made his non-existent back teeth vibrate.

Tentacles lashed, flinging themselves through trailers and unsuspecting people alike, but when the tentacles went through a person, the person stopped suddenly, and got this weirdly distant look on their face. When the tentacle recoiled, they almost stumbled, as if tripping over a rock on the ground, except there were never any rocks, and the people looked puzzled and disoriented. So this thing, squid monster, could have an effect on the real world. There was no way in hell that was good.

The thing seemed to be half submerged in the ground and half above it, the tentacles pulling it along, and acting as spazzy seeing eye dogs. The head was far enough above the soil that Ben could see it had a mouth, a lipless maw crammed full of way too many jagged onyx teeth. They blended in so well with its tire colored skin that Ben could only see them when lights glinted off of them. How light could glint off something that technically did not physically exist was a question best left to people who both knew and gave a shit.

He pulled his second gun and started firing them in successions, hitting as many tentacles as he could. (He tried to do the two gun thing in real life once, only to find he couldn’t do it. Now that he was dead and non-physical, the rules had changed.) He tried shooting it in the face, but the bullets seemed to disappear before they could hit it. At least he could still shoot the tentacles.

The problem was, there were so many tentacles, and while he now had two guns, it wasn’t enough. One of the tentacles managed to grab his ankle, and here was the thing: he felt it. He felt the teeth sink into him, and suddenly he was cold, like he’d been bathed in ice water. He had a body, and it was being frozen to death.

The tentacle dragged him along towards the mouth of the beast, which gaped as wide as a tunnel. Ben stopped trying to shoot the tentacles and started unloading them into the beast’s open mouth. Maybe he couldn’t shoot it in the face, but he just had to assume an opening wouldn’t be as guarded.

Bullets exploded out of the back of its head, but Ben only knew this by the small puffs of black smoke rising from behind it. After he must have emptied two full clips worth into its maw, the tentacle finally released him, and he began to slowly thaw, as the creature let out a final, soul piercing shriek, and seemed to disappear into the reappearing vortex.

With the retreat of the squid monster and all its tentacles, the feeling of him having a body went away. So did the guns, which just faded out of existence. Did that thing have a different reality around it or something? Weird.

The wrinkled old man popped back into existence. “So, you escaped the soul reaper?”

Ben looked up at him, wishing he still had a gun. “You knew what that was, and you didn’t tell me?”

He shrugged. “They usually go after one soul in particular. I didn’t know if it was you or me. Glad it wasn’t me. But dude, you better get ready.”

Oh, he really didn’t like the sound of that. “For what?”

“Where there’s one, there’s a dozen.”

“What?” Ben tried to imagine this, and couldn’t.

He was going to need a lot more guns.

**

Random rolls: Dirty cop/ghost/trailer park/ besieged by supernatural enemies

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