Skip

Jun was waving as I stepped out of the skip station, but I didn’t rush to meet them. They reached out to take my hand, and I flinched, startled by the contact.

“Is something wrong?”

“I . . .” I hesitated. Uncertain? Embarrassed? Afraid? “I think I had a bad skip.”

I tried to read Jun’s reaction, but their features suddenly seemed foreign in a way they never had before. “Let’s get some food,” was all they said, “then you’ll feel better.”

There hadn’t been anything strange about this evening’s skip. I had stepped into the pod in Philadelphia and 17:23:51 planetary standard time and stepped out in Kyoto at 17:24:07. Practically instantaneous transportation. Not transportation, I reminded myself, reconstitution.

“Is something wrong with your noodles?” Jun asked. Was that concern on their face? Confusion? Fear? How long had I been staring at my noodles lost in thought?

Lost echoed in my mind.

“Bathroom,” I muttered, then left the table.

I studied my reflection and found every freckle, every hair, every scar exactly where I expected. Something still felt wrong. I splashed water on my face, gripped the edge of the sink, tried desperately to convince myself I was more than a ghost.

* * *

Story by Gregory M. Fox

Candy

The dolorous ringing of the doorbell woke Stacey from a heavy sleep. He rolled over and tumbled to the floor, only then remembering that he had fallen asleep on the couch watching The Mummy, like he did every Halloween.

“Trick-or-treat!” a thin voice sounded through the doors.

He must have left the porch light on even after kids had stopped coming by. But what time was it? Bleary eyed, he looked for a clock, but couldn’t see the hands on the clock above the sink. He couldn’t find his glasses. Then he remembered to check his phone, which read 00:00. Midnight? It seemed too late.

“Trick-or-treat!” the voice called again.

He staggered toward the door where the mostly empty bowl of candy sat on a stool. For some reason, he felt like he ought to be in costume. With no better options, he grabbed the blanket he had been sleeping under and threw it over his head before answering the door.

Standing on the other side was a small figure, similarly shrouded. “Trick-or-treat!” they said once more holding out a small pumpkin-shaped bucket. Stacey dumped a full sized Snickers into the bucket. “Sweet,” they said. And then the figure disappeared.

* * *

Story by Gregory M. Fox

Close

You should have been surprised by my translucent form leaning over you, but perhaps you were expecting me. “What are you doing?” I asked.

“Trying to be close to you.”

I looked around at the rows of tombstones surrounding us, then back down at your form stretched out on the mound of earth covering my coffin. “This is creepy,” I said.

Your brow crinkled that way I think is cute. “I thought it would be sweet.”

I rolled my eyes. “So melodramatic.”

“Seriously?” you replied, propping yourself up on your elbows, “Why are you being so obnoxious?”

“You want obnoxious?” I snorted, “Try being dead.”

And suddenly, you were shouting. “Don’t you think I know that? Look, I’m sorry alright. I’m sorry!

“Sorry?”

“Yes!”

“Why are you sorry?” I asked. “It wasn’t your fault.”

Red rimmed eyes, filling with tears. “But . . . I’m still here.

I sank to the ground beside you, wishing with all my unbeating heart that you could rest your head on my shoulder. “I know. And it’s beautiful. Life is beautiful. You living is beautiful.”

You sniffed. You sighed. Then you smiled. “Thanks. I’m glad I came here.”

“Me too. Even if it is a little creepy.”

* * *

Story by Gregory M. Fox

Date

Serena grinned enticingly as she set her empty glass on the bar. “Why don’t we take this back to your place?”

“I’d love to,” Phil said staring into his own glass, “but I’m not sure it’s a good idea.”

“Oh.”

“But what about your place?” he offered hastily.

Serena’s brow furrowed, then her eyes went wide. “Oh no,” she gasped. “You’re married.”

“What? No.”

“But there is someone else.”

“Not . . . really.”

Serena shook her head in disbelief. “I’m an idiot,” she said gathering up her jacket and purse. “I have to get out of here.”

“She’s not—” Phil winced. “I mean, I can explain.”

But Serena was already on her way to the door. “Don’t bother,” she called without even looking back.

Fifteen minutes later, Phil opened the door to his dark apartment and turned on the lights.

“You’re back early,” a woman’s voice remarked.

“I know,” he grunted.

A spectral figure glided into view. She was dressed in rags, her skin was cracked and crumbling, nothing but two deep pits for eyes. “So how did it go?” she asked.

“Like you care.”

The ghost considered, then shrugged. “Turn on the TV. I want to watch Great British Bake Off.”

* * *

Story by Gregory M. Fox