Tulip: A Short Story of Ghosts
Tulip: A Short Story of Ghosts ghosts stories

josephwrites reader, writer, lover of a good time.
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A story about ghosts, existence, and love.

Tulip: A Short Story of Ghosts

It becomes clockwork; they hang around like tennis shoes over telephone cables— stagnantly waiting for a gust of wind that will never come.

The sun glimmers into an attic in a small town just outside of Philadelphia.

Its light fractures through the round window in the center of the room, passing dusty moving boxes and covered art canvases.

A rainbow is projected on the old wood, and besides it, in the shade, a weight bends into the floor. It's lying over the dampness and the splinters.

It's indistinguishable by atoms, but it used to be--he used to be.

Now, he trades his time between lying there and long walks; he roams the streets like a bodiless fixture of long white bed sheets with holes where eyes should be.

Outside of this place he calls home, the world lingers over him. The attic is unused and forgotten, and its only purpose is to store old mementos.

It smells of dust bunnies and sawdust, but no one would know this. A few feet beneath the attic door there's a hallway with a bedroom on each side of it.

A middle aged couple resides in one room and their two children in the other.

Their joyous laughs and arbitrary complaints could be heard from above, but they have no knowledge of the guest living in their attic.

Their only comprehension of his existence comes from "ghost stories" the kids share in the middle of the night as they whisper in blanket forts over steel-framed bunk beds.

That, along with delusions they tell themselves before falling to sleep.

For all the time he has, he does not eat or sleep, he merely exists--if this is what that was. He lies awake pondering this realm, hoping an answer would let him rest.

That's all the hollow body could make of his purpose. These rules and what he had come to find became law to him until those laws bent and broke to the sound of her.

It was the start of a Sunday just past midnight, and he was walking the empty streets. At the end of the block, where Driftwood Avenue intersected 4th Street, he could sense it.

He turned his gaze to her, and she appeared elegant and in no way represented as the drapes with eye holes he imagined himself to be.

Her figure was translucent and whole-bodied; it glistened in the moonlight the way a soap bubble did in the sun. It almost felt surreal, and he wondered what had brought her there.

"Who are you?" The words flowed through him like rain from clouds. He was surprised by the sound of his own voice.

It was hollow sounding and almost hazy as if he was speaking through a large cave dripping with rain water.

She didn't say a word. They sat with each other for a couple of seconds, and in that time he felt naked.

He could sense an innocence and vulnerableness looming over him, and he worried that she felt it too.

She lifted a pawn from the chessboard and moved it up two squares. Then, he took his turn. Each chess piece felt heavy under the empty fingers he used to move them.

Only the sound of a slight breeze kept them company throughout the night as they traded between moving pieces. Within six turns the game was over.

"I remember skin that felt nice under the sun. I was a girl then. Fourteen days I've been here," she eventually said.

Today it looked like skin was a distant dream. He was surprised that she knew some about the past, or at least she spoke as if she did.

"Are you afraid?" She asked.

Before he could answer, the sun began to rise. They could see its light breaking past the buildings and onto the street. She sensed his fear as he readied himself towards the attic.

By then, she had decided, she'd walk with him and count constellations along the way.

There, she could discover him for who he was, but all she found was thin walls and the dusted boxes.

She found cobweb filled corners and dampened floorboard caused by rain dripping through cracks in the ceiling -- the way it was doing then.

She found the dirty round window in the center of the attic.

This is what he believed, however, to her, she watched spiders as they weaved together a safety net. In one corner she noticed height-markers on the wall that must've had meaning to someone.

She had looked through the stain-glassed window and enjoyed the sight of Orion's Belt, and right then, a raindrop fell.

It hit the floor, but for a second he imagined it would gently slide down her cheek, dribble onto her shoulder, and stream its way to the tip of her finger--then it would hit the floor.

She looked down as if she imagined the same.

Although the days faded more quickly where they were, they carried an emotional toll. Minutes flew by like seconds, and days felt like hours.

It made it feel as if sleep was a high they were always chasing just couldn't reach.

"Are you afraid?" She asked again.

Outside the window, they noticed the neighborhood become busy. It was seven in the morning, and the streets started to buzz with car engines and disoriented chatter.

There were men and women walking out of their homes in suits and dresses. Some walked towards the cars sitting in their driveways while others pulled out of their garages.

Children in uniform followed with lunch boxes, large backpacks, and dispirited faces. They all wore bags under their eyes and wrinkled shirts like badges they were unfortunate to have.

A young man stopped at nearly every house in the neighborhood, and after greeting the owners he would leave with a new companion each time.

By the end of it, he had roughly ten leashes strapped to a belt around his waist with dogs of all sizes on the other ends.

They pulled him in every direction as he tried to halt them with all of the muscle on his back. He ultimately gave in and let them guide.

The ghosts watched from the window entertained and enamored. Two nights ago they were strangers, and on the third day they watched the sunset together.

Everything had come and gone again. The kids grew into thick bones and bratty attitudes.

They always said "goodbye" and left home, and they always came back with new scars, stories, and a well-deserved sense of grandeur. Before that, their pets grew old.

Their fur became gray and their bodies shriveled. Some aged past a decade and some bore offspring -- some more than once -- but all of them, with time, weren't seen again.

Eventually, caffeine-driven demolition workers came. The houses were abandoned then, and their ashes meant more. They needed to be rebuilt and saved from busted pipes and termite-ridden walls.

Heavy wrecking balls brought them down, and excavators gathered the pieces in large piles. When there was nothing left, they stood over the dust.

The sun grew out from the horizon and began to consume every inch of shade. It slowly crept from the far side of the street and onto the sidewalk.

Its rays touched her ankles then wrapped around both of theirs like grapevines on wooden fencing.

The pain of bee stings made their way up and around them. A sharp burn boiled at the soles of their feet, but neither of them moved.

The light tightened until they couldn't hold their breath anymore, and he turned to her to find it was up to their chests. The tension was barely bearable, but they were glowing in it.

They grew a creamy exterior complemented by an assortment of colors -- all the shades of a tulip. Violet and maroon transitioned from the faint yellow on their bottoms.

Pink began to reflect off of their noses, and they turned to each other one last time before being completely intangible. He smiled vibrantly through warm sun-kissed cheeks.

"No," he replied.

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